Around the Region

This Covid-19 measure aims to protect animals

Like virtually all nations of the world, Costa Rica is implementing public-health controls to protect its people from the coronavirus. But the country also has moved to safeguard animals as well—namely, by closing all protected areas to researchers through June 1. The restriction, which took effect on April 18, the day it was announced, follows news that a tiger tested positive for Covid-19 at the Bronx Zoo in New York, where several other big cats have also displayed symptoms. “Costa Rica decided to prohibit the entry of researchers and their assistants to protected areas to prevent human-animal contagion,” said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment. “We based this decision on the documented case of the tiger that got sick in New York.” In exceptional cases, researchers with permits may enter protected areas, but must first get permission from the National System of Conservation Areas...

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Figures suggest a Brazilian Amazon deforestation surge

Though business activity in economically frail Brazil has slowed further amid current Covid-19 containment measures, deforestation in the country’s Amazon region appears to be surging. Estimates from the government-run National Institute for Space Research (INPE) suggest that 29.9% more Amazon land was cleared during the month of March than in March 2019. That’s the second biggest increase since 2016 in the monthly estimate, which is based on a review of low-resolution satellite images. Experts suggest the acceleration might stem at least partly from the Covid-19 crisis, which reportedly has caused a decline in environmental enforcement since measures to arrest the spread of Covid-19 were announced in March. The low-resolution images suggest that land clearing in the Brazilian Amazon in March totaled 326 square kilometers (126 square miles). That compares to 251 square kilometers (97 square miles) estimated for March of 2019. The agency estimates...

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Uruguay’s new government to increase fines, create ministry

Uruguay’s new conservative government has announced an executive-branch reorganization under which key environmental functions will be housed in a freestanding Ministry of Environment and Water. Previously, environmental oversight formed part of the portfolio of the Ministry of Housing, Land Management and Environment. The new Ministry of Environment and Water will also take on the functions of Uruguay’s National Water Directorate (Dinagua) and the National Environment, Water and Climate Secretariat. The new administration of President Luis Lacalle Pou and his National Party took office on March 1, ending 15 years of rule by the left-leaning Frente Amplio party. Aside from pulling environmental functions into a single ministry, the Lacalle Pou administration also has signaled it will raise maximum fines for environmental infractions considerably—to US$3 million from the current top penalty of $450,000. And it says it will centralize environmental information and make it available to the public...

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