CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- Dozens of flamingoes were killed in recent weeks by children and adolescents in the Tucurere wildlife preserve in the northwestern Venezuelan state of Falcón, reports the Ministry of Environment.
"The massacre was perpetrated by children ages six to 14," who flew kites with metal blades to hunt the birds, ministerial representative for the area, Freddy Eizaga, told Tierramérica.
Then the minors sold the birds for a dollar each, "but it is not out of hunger, because there are plenty of fish here," said Carlos López, resident of Tucurere.
But Mayor Francis Arias maintains that "the villagers eat the flamingoes because they simply don't have anything else."
There are some 37,000 flamingoes in Venezuela, mostly the pink flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber). The habitat for the vast majority is the wetlands refuges along the country's Caribbean coast.
Call to End Fumigation in Protected Areas
BOGOTA, (Tierramérica).- Senators and environmentalists have asked the Colombian government to annul a resolution, currently suspended, that would allow anti-drug fumigation in natural areas protected due to their biodiversity.
The petition was formalized Mar. 30 during the Senate debate in which deputy environment minister Juan Bonilla as in attendance to explain why the broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate was being used in the nature parks.
Bonilla said fumigation would remain suspended while the government evaluates alternatives, such as eradicating drug crops by hand, and that international support is being sought.
Senator Jorge Robledo, of the leftist Independent Workers Movement, told Tierramérica that the use of herbicides in those areas is dangerous for the environment and for the health of nearby communities.
Colombia's 49 protected areas cover 10 million hectares and encompass the watersheds that supply water directly to 31 percent of the population.
The Last Robinson Crusoe Castor-Oil Seed
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- Three scientists are working against the clock in Chile to reproduce the Robinsonia berteroi seed, a type of castor-oil bean endemic to Robinson Crusoe Island. And there is just one specimen of this castor-oil plant left.
The Santiago-based newspaper La Nación announced on Mar. 30 that only those researchers from the private Central University and two park rangers know the location of the remaining castor-oil plant in a dense forest on Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernández archipelago.
Declared a national park in 1935 and a world biosphere reserve in 1977, the series of islands is located in the Pacific Ocean, 670 km west of Santiago.
Botanist Juan Velozo, head of the research team, said the only known living Robinsonia berteroi is around 100 years old. The plant, hermaphrodite and infertile, no longer produces seeds.
Unsuccessful attempts have been made at "in vitro" reproduction, but there is hope that laboratory processing of its floral structures, which contain pollen and ovum, will allow the scientists to produce seeds.
T for Transgenic
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- As of Mar. 31, Brazil is requiring labels to identify those foods that contain more than one percent genetically modified ingredients. Failure to comply is to be penalized with fines and seizure of the product.
The labeling decree was signed a year ago, but drawing up regulations and defining the identifying symbol -- a simple "T" -- took months, and then came a period for companies to adapt their packaging to the new requirements.
"It isn't ideal, but it is a step in the right direction," said Sezifredo Paz, executive director of the Brazilian Consumer Defense Institute (IDEC). He noted that Sao Paulo state has a stricter law, which requires identification of products with even less than one percent of transgenic ingredients.
In any case, the soybeans harvested last years are the only genetically modified product allowed in the country, and the rest remain banned under a legal decision sought by IDEC. The ban remains in place until another ruling is made or until the biosecurity law currently being debated in the Senate is approved.
Maya Assembly Under Way
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- The first National Assembly of Representatives of the Maya People began on Mar. 29 in Guatemala and aims to establish ties between the Indians, the state and the international community.
The 88 delegates to the assembly were democratically elected from among the 300 leaders of 22 indigenous communities, Juana Batzibal, leader of the Maya Consultative Commission, told Tierramérica.
"The assembly is a space for calling for unity of the peoples as a means to fight discrimination and racism and the exclusion from the Guatemalan state," she said.
This new body, which will meet at least once every two months, will not be issuing binding resolutions.
According to the 2002 census, Indians make up 41 percent of the Guatemalan population of 11.2 million. *Source: Inter Press Service.
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