Around the Region

Vaquita count indicates population nearly extinct

Last year seemed to finally provide a ray of hope for the vaquita, the critically endangered Mexican porpoise that inhabits the upper reaches of the Gulf of California. As the population of the tiny marine mammal slipped below 100, the government assembled an all-out effort to save the species, placing strict curbs on fishing and sending in the Mexican Navy to enforce them. (See “Mexico plans 11th-hour drive to save vaquita—EcoAméricas, March ’15.) Then, during a 10-week marine expedition to estimate a new count of the population, researchers made at least two-dozen sightings of the elusive vaquita (Phocoena sinus), beyond anything they had hoped for. (See “Some rare good news about a very rare porpoise”—EcoAméricas, Oct. ’15.) But this...

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Brazilian authorities suspend licensing of big Amazon dam

Given the pressure to meet future power demand, Ibama, the permitting arm of Brazil’s Environment Ministry, is loath to suspend licensing of a major hydroelectric project without a powerful reason. Last month, though, Ibama announced it had found such a reason in a report by the government’s Federal Indian Agency (Funai). The report, sent to Ibama on Feb. 26, concludes that the planned 722-square-kilometer (279-square-mile) reservoir of the São Luiz do Tapajós Dam, the largest new hydroelectric project currently planned for the Brazilian Amazon, would partially flood the 1,780-sq-km (687-sq-mile) reservation of the 13,000-member Munduruku tribe. This, the report says, would require the relocation of three villages. Citing the finding, Ibama President Marilene Ramos announced on...

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Map underscores indigenous peoples’ role in conservation

A new map of Central America showing the lands inhabited by indigenous peoples offers detailed evidence of the communities’ importance in protecting fragile ecosystems. The map, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is designed to press the case for recognizing the land rights of indigenous peoples as part of any national conservation strategy. “This map shows that where indigenous peoples live, you will find the best preserved natural resources,” says Grethel Aguilar, regional director of the IUCN office of Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. “They depend on those natural resources to survive, and the rest of society depends on their role in safeguarding those resources.” Previous research has shown there is strong evidence that granting indigenous communities land rights over...

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