226t h
issue, May 28, 2013
A decline in the diversity of farmed plants and livestock breeds is gathering pace, threatening
future food supplies for t...
The illegal trade of animals or animal parts has become one of the most lucrative
black market activities in the world. Dr...
Compressed air energy storage plants could help save the region’s abundant
wind power — which is often produced at night w...
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Newsletter 226


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Newsletter 226

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER 226t h issue, May 28, 2013 WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY: Let’s Support U.N. Think.Eat.Save Initiative The theme for this year’s World Environment Day celebrations is Think.Eat.Save. This is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger . Every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted, equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger. Given this enormous imbalance in lifestyles and the resultant devastating effects on the environment, Think.Eat.Save encourages everyone to become more aware of the environmental impact of the food choices and empowers individuals and organisations to make informed decisions. We are asking people to act, by spreading this message, to reduce food waste and protect our environment. Read more: The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.  World Environment Day: Think.Eat.Save Initiative.  Conservation: Decline in Biodiversity.  Conservation: Venezuela’s Canaima National Park.  Conservation: The Economics of the Illegal Wildlife Trade.  Energy: Compressing Air for Renewable Energy Storage.  Conservation: 10th Latin American Congress of Private Nature Reserves.  June 3-7, 2013 REO to attend the Science Corner Workshop in Chile  June 5, 2013 World Environment Day  June 8, 2013 World Oceans Day  June 24-27, 2013 REO to address at the LA Forum on Climate Change Adaptation in Brazil  June 28-29, 2013 Peru Green Build 2013 Expo & International Congress, Lima, Peru  July 10-12, 2013 Eolica, Buenos Aires, Argentina  August 19-23, 2013 10th Latin American Congress of Private Nature Reserves, Chile congreso-latino-agosto- 2013.html Next events: In this issue:
  2. 2. A decline in the diversity of farmed plants and livestock breeds is gathering pace, threatening future food supplies for the world's growing population, the head of a new United Nations panel on biodiversity said on Monday. Preserving neglected animal breeds and plants was necessary as they could have genes resistant to future diseases or to shifts in the climate to warmer tem- peratures, more droughts or downpours, Zakri Abdul Hamid said. "The loss of biodiversity is happening faster and everywhere, even among farm animals," Zakri told a conference of 450 experts in Trondheim, central Norway, in his first speech as founding chair of the U.N. biodiver- sity panel. Many traditional breeds of cows, sheep or goats have fallen out of favor, often because they yield less meat or milk than new breeds. Globalization also means that people's food prefer- ences narrow down to fewer plants. Zakri said there were 30,000 edible plants but that just 30 crops accounted for 95 percent of the energy in human food that is dominated by rice, wheat, maize, millet and sorghum. He said it was "more important than ever to have a large genetic pool to enable organisms to withstand and adapt to new conditions." That would help to ensure food for a global population set to reach 9 billion by 2050 from 7 billion now. Zakri noted that the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization estimated last year that 22 percent of the world's livestock breeds were at risk of extinction. That means there are fewer than 1,000 animals in each breed. The extinctions of some domesticated animals and plants was happening in tandem with accelerating losses of wild species caused by factors such as deforestation, expansion of cities, pollution and climate change, he said. Irene Hoffmann, chief of the FAO's animal genetic resources branch, told Reuters that eight percent of live- stock breeds had already become extinct. Many nations had started breeding programs for rare livestock, from llamas to pigs. Some were freezing embryos or even stem cells that might be used in cloning, she said. In 2010, governments set goals including halting extinction of known threatened species by 2020 and expanding the area set aside in parks or protected areas for wildlife to 17 percent of the Earth's land surface from about 13 percent now. Read more at: Canaima national park is located in the south-east of Venezuela in Bolívar State (Piar and Ro- scio districts). The park protects the Venezuelan (north-western) section of the Guayana Shield. The nearest city is Ciudad Bolívar some 600km to the north. Canaima was established as a national park in 1962 and its size was doubled to the present area in 1975. The park is best known for the unique table mountain (tepui) formations: there are numerous waterfalls, including Angel Falls with a free drop of 1,002 m. The high level of endemism found on the summits of the tepuis has led to the recognition of Pantepui as a unique biogeographic entity. The park protects the headwaters of the Caronì River which supplies Guri, the country's larg- est hydroelectric power station and source of 60% of the nation's energy. The savannah por- tion of the park is inhabited by the indigenous Pemòn people, many of whom are settled and dependent on three Capuchin missions. A main road from Ciudad Bolivar runs along the eastern border of the park, bisecting its south- east corner and providing easy access for tourists. There are no other metalled roads within the park, the western section being accessible only by air. Reflecting its former connection between South America and Africa through the former Gondwanaland, Canaima has many geological affinities with western Africa. The cliffs and mesa-like structures in the western Sahara consist of sandstone similar to that of the Roraima tepui . The fauna is diverse, although not very abundant: 118 mammals, 550 birds, 72 reptiles and 55 amphibians have been recorded. There are six species of mammals of conservation concern: giant anteater, giant armadillo, giant otter, bush dog, little spotted cat and margay. The only endemic mammal is the rodent Podoxymys roraimae . The avifauna is varied and contains over 30 species endemic to Pantepui. The less mobile orders, amphibians, reptiles and fish, exhibit even higher levels of endemism. The forests and savannah have been occupied for 10,000 years by various groups of Amerindians of the Carib family, collectively known as the Pemon. Two archaeological sites, containing various hand-fashioned stone tools estimated to be 9,000 years old, have been found in the park. The park is sparsely inhabited: many Pemon maintain traditional lifestyles of swidden agriculture, hunting and gathering. They also trade artefacts and now have access to electricity, schools and basic medical care. Read more at: CONSERVATION: Decline in Biodiversity of Farmed Plants, Animals Gathering Pace By Alister Doyle CONSERVATION: Venezuela’s Canaima National Park Photo by InduAgComm (flickr user). Under Creative Commons Photo by mammal (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.
  3. 3. The illegal trade of animals or animal parts has become one of the most lucrative black market activities in the world. Driven by the promise of high profit margins, poachers in Africa – namely militias, armed groups, and insurgent groups – have driven rhinos and elephants close to extinction, while murdering hundreds of park rangers in the process. NGOs and governments now face a race against time to reduce demand for wildlife trade, particularly in Asia, as well as to equip those on the frontline to fight a well-armed enemy. Even going by the lowest estimates, wildlife crime is currently the 5th largest illicit transnational activity in the world, after counterfeiting and the illegal trafficking of drugs, people, and oil. The illicit sale of animals or animal parts is such big business that it attracts large criminal syndicates, as well as militia armed to the teeth. Traf- fic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, estimates that illegal wildlife trade is worth US$8-10 billion per year, although a 2008 report for the US Congress says it could be closer to US$20 billion. According to Dr Richard Thomas, the Global Communications Co-ordinator for Traffic, the demand for rhino horn, for instance, was mainly coming from Vietnam. “Demand kicked off in the mid-2000s when rumours spread about its medicinal properties. It’s become the recreational drug for the nouveau riche to flaunt their wealth. It’s supposed to cure hangovers, enhance virility and even cure cancer. There’s no medical evidence whatsoever for any of that. Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same stuff as human fingernails,” he said. Meanwhile, the mass poaching of African elephants is driven by demand from China and Thailand, where the ivory is carved into household ornaments, jewellery and chopsticks by artisans who favour African over Asian ivory. In Southern Sudan, the elephant population has fallen from an estimated 130,000 in 1986, to 5,000 today. Tanzania had around 80,000 elephants in 2009, but 10,000 elephants a year are being slaughtered. More than a third of all elephant tusks seized by law enforcement last year came from Tanzania, with neighbouring Kenya a close second. Unfortunately, the frontline battle against the ruthless poachers is being lost, as evident by the tragically high death toll among Africa’s poorly resourced rangers. According to Sean Willmore, the President of the International Ranger Federation (IRF), at least 1,000 rangers have been killed in 35 different countries over the last decade, although he says the real figure may be closer to 5,000. Rangers have to be ready 24/7 as you can’t tell the poachers when they’re allowed to come. It’s vital that we find the right guys with the passion for the job. Otherwise, there’s a danger that the poorly paid rangers will take bribes from the militia,” he said. In Mozambique last month for example, 30 rangers were arrested for their role in help- ing poachers to butcher the nation’s remaining 15 rhinos. The animals were discovered in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a wildlife reserve along Mozambique’s southern border where rhinos numbered in the hundreds a decade ago. “The Mozambique Gov- ernment has now declared there are no more rhinos anywhere,” Galliers lamented. With the demise of Mozambique’s rhino population, the armed militia are now likely to target rhinos in neighbouring South Africa. Sadly, the South African rhinos could be headed towards an equally grim fate. So far this year, 350 rhinos have died and the toll is ex- pected to reach 750 by the end of the year. South Africa’s flagship national park, the Kruger, which lies alongside the border with Mozambique, has lost more than 50 percent of its rhinos since 2010. The South African army has been sent to help rangers and there are daily reports of violent gun battles and mounting human casualties. What would be more effective is bringing in a UN peace-keeping force to help out where governments cannot ensure the security of their own natural resources,” he said. The scale of the problem caused five international organizations to join forces in late 2010 to create the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). ICCWC exists to coordinate the diverse responses to the problem and to try and ensure more successful prosecutions. Currently, the crime is an attractive one for criminal gangs because the risk of detection and punishment is too low. ICCWC comprises CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Secretariat, INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank and the World Customs Organi- zation (WCO). Raising Awareness. Dr Thomas says high-level political buy-in would ensure greater re- sources and there are signs that governments are getting the message. In December, Hillary Clinton, then US Secretary of State, upgraded wildlife trafficking from a conserva- tion issue to a national security threat. Read full article at: economics-of-the-illegal-wildlife-trade.29-05.html CONSERVATION: The Economics Of The Illegal Wildlife Trade By David Smith Photo by MAZZALIARMAD (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. Hottest-SellingAnimalinColombia'sIllegalPetTrade:Sloths ByJohnSchiffren In the bustling streets of a Colombian village, colorful exotic birds, monkeys and sloths, all animals that were once wild, are being sold as pets, and business is booming. The wildlife trade is now the third-most- lucrative criminal enterprise in Colombia after drugs and weapons. An estimated 60,000 animals were trafficked last year alone, including a growing number of sloths. What's more, traffickers are fueling a growing economy that is thriving outside of Colombia. The global market for wild animals, and that includes the United States, is estimated to bring in $20 billion per year. In what is now considered the biggest exotic pet seizure in American history, 27,000 animals, including several sloths, were rescued from a pet distributor in Arlington, Texas, in 2009. Undercover video shot by PETA members showed that the sloths were kept in filthy cages that lacked the necessary equipment for the animals to survive in captivity, including heat lamps and humidifiers. The bodies of several sloths were later found in the facility's freezer. It was a sad reminder, zoologist Lucy Cooke said, of the most common misconception about sloths. "They did not evolve to be somebody's house pet," Cooke said. "Sloths make lousy pets. That's the truth of it." -illegal-exotic-pet-trade/story?id=19172620#.Uad-uKJ-vIw
  4. 4. Compressed air energy storage plants could help save the region’s abundant wind power — which is often produced at night when winds are strong and energy demand is low — for later, when demand is high and power supplies are more strained. These plants can also switch between energy storage and power generation within minutes, providing flexibility to balance the region’s highly variable wind energy generation throughout the day. “With Renewable Portfo- lio Standards requiring states to have as much as 20 or 30 percent of their elec- tricity come from variable sources such as wind and the sun, compressed air energy storage plants can play a valuable role in helping manage and integrate renewable power onto the Northwest’s electric grid,” said Steve Knudsen, who managed the study for the BPA. Geologic energy savings accounts. All compressed air energy storage plants work under the same basic premise. When power is abundant, it’s drawn from the electric grid and used to power a large air compressor, which pushes pres- surized air into an underground geologic storage structure. Later, when power demand is high, the stored air is released back up to the surface, where it is heated and rushes through turbines to generate electricity. Compressed air energy storage plants can re- generate as much as 80 percent of the electricity they take in. The world’s two existing compressed air energy storage plants — one in Alabama, the other in Germany — use man-made salt cav- erns to store excess electricity. The PNNL-BPA study examined a different approach: using natural, porous rock reservoirs that are deep underground to store renewable energy. Interest in the technology has increased greatly in the past decade as utilities and others seek better ways to integrate renewable energy onto the power grid. About 13 percent, or nearly 8,600 megawatts, of the Northwest’s power supply comes from of wind. This prompted BPA and PNNL to investigate whether the technology could be used in the Northwest. Read full article at: ASI Conserva Chile and the Latin American Alliance will join together for the 10th Latin American Congress of Private Nature Reserves, August 19-23, 2013. The Latin American Alliance of Private Nature Reserves, in conjunction with the Association of Conservation Initiatives in Indigenous and Private Areas (ASI Conserva Chile A.G.), cordially invites you to the 10th Congress of Private Nature Reserves of Latin America, hosted in the beautiful Patagonian forest in the region of “Los Ríos,” Chile. This important event, occurring every two years in different Latin American countries, boasts a wide variety of past hosts, including Costa Rica, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Guatemala. The principal objective of this congress is to exchange experiences that con- tribute to sustainable development based in innovative biodiversity conser- vation. With this objective in mind, both organizing institutions hope to strengthen public-private cooperation to promote the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage which sustains the well-being of modern socie- ties and future generations. Read full article at: SCIENCE: Compressing Air for Renewable Storage Photo by elrentaplats (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. CONSERVATION: 10th Latin American Congress of Private Nature Reserves