Around the Region

Ecuadorian oil-project plans worrying indigenous groups

Indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon fear a possible expansion of the oil industry’s footprint in the rainforest region, where four decades of drilling have caused widespread environmental damage and failed to bring them socioeconomic progress. The concern is running particularly strong among the Sápara, who live in the highly biodiverse Napo ecoregion near Yasuní National Park in the eastern Ecuadorian Amazon province of Pastaza. In 2019, the Sápara blocked oil-development efforts by the Chinese company Andes Petroleum in two oil concession areas, numbers 79 and 83. But they are now pointing to signs of renewed pressure for oil development there and elsewhere in the region. The government of conservative Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso has vowed to more than double the country’s oil production, to one million barrels daily, by the time his four-year presidential term ends in 2025. Experts say this would require not only an intensification...

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Immunocontraceptive used in bid to sterilize invasive hippos

Using technical support and drugs from the United States, Colombian veterinarians attempted to sterilize 24 of the 100 hippopotamuses now estimated to be living in the wild in the mid-Magdalena River basin. Some four decades ago, Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar imported African hippos and other exotic animals to populate a private zoo he maintained at Hacienda Nápoles, his luxurious estancia in the department of Antioquia. After he died in 1993, the hippos lived on, reproducing and eventually extending their population beyond the estancia’s grounds and into the mid-Magdalena River watershed, where a lack of natural predators has allowed them to thrive. Today, an estimated 100 hippos are believed to live in the watershed in an area covering roughly 2,000 square kilometers (772 sq. miles). In an article published in the journal Biological Conservation in January, a group of Colombian and Mexican biologists estimated that if unchecked, the...

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Tree planting initiative gains ground in Uruguay

An initiative to plant native tree species and remove invasive plants in key Uruguayan watersheds, though modestly funded and scaled so far, has managed to complete projects in nine of the country’s 19 departments. The Plantatón, or Plantathon, initiative was inaugurated in Uruguay on June 5, 2019, to coincide with World Environment Day as part of an international, UN-sponsored reforestation campaign. Initially 40 rural and urban reforestation sites were selected with the objective of restoring ecosystems where displacement of native plant species had decreased biodiversity and made the land more vulnerable to flooding, fires and watershed destruction. Native tree species such as arrayán (Luma apiculata), chal-chal (Allophylus edulis) and curupí (Sapium haematospermum) are increasingly being displaced by the spread of exotic species, unplanned urban growth and unsustainable tourism development. These and over 20 other native tree species are being planted as part of the Plantatón campaign. Six decades...

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