CARACAS, (Tierramérica).- Nine yellow-crowned parrots (Amazona ochrocephala) and one scarlet macaw (Ara macao), all three months old, were repatriated to Venezuela by authorities from the neighboring island of Curacao, where they had been taken illegally.
''There had been 32 parrots, but more than half died because of the poor conditions in which they were transported. The Curacao officials found them at a port with a load of illegal merchandise coming from our country,'' Alexis Rengifo, head of the wildlife division of Venezuela's Environment Ministry, told Tierramérica.
In Curacao, the birds were quarantined while their return to Venezuela was organized, and they were sent to the Caricuao Zoo in Caracas, where ''they are gradually recovering and under observation,'' zoo director Salvador Boher said.
The authorities are looking for the people responsible for this trafficking of birds and are working to fight this crime in general. Trafficking of tropical animals worldwide is an estimated 500 million dollar business annually.
Venezuela is a party to the 1976 Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Hurricane Charley No Relief for Drought
HAVANA, (Tierramérica).- Hurricane Charley, which hit the western part of Cuba early in the morning of Aug. 13, caused a great deal of destruction but nothing to alleviate the island's ongoing drought.
''It didn't bring any water, and I lost all of my banana and avocado trees,'' peasant farmer Pablo Castillo told Tierramérica. The winds also destroyed the roof of his house, located just outside the capital.
The rains did little to replenish the reservoirs surrounding Havana, home to more than two million people.
Experts from the Meteorology Institute hope this year's rainy season, from May to October, will see precipitation near normal in eastern, central and western Cuba.
The drought is affecting the entire country, but particularly the eastern provinces Camagüey, Las Tunas, Granma, Holguín, Santiago de Cuba and Guantánamo.
Ecologists Demand Land Regulation
SANTIAGO, (Tierramérica).- The non-governmental organization Sustainable Chile is calling on the Ricardo Lagos government to implement territorial regulation based on national development goals, and has demanded the withdrawal of a parliamentary bill that would deregulate territorial planning that favors market interests.
Sustainable Chile director Sara Larraín told a seminar with lawmakers last week that the reforms of the Urbanism and Construction Act would destroy ''any possibility for strategic planning and regulation'' of Chilean territory and would benefit a real estate focus based on profits.
The reforms centralize the territorial use decisions in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and takes away the authority of other key entities, like the ministries of agriculture and planning, the farming and livestock service and the national forestry commission, she said.
''Planning of national territory by the (Ministry of) Housing is obviously a mistake, and contradicts any notion of development. We are taking a step in the wrong direction from the perspective of decentralized and inter-disciplinary planning,'' said Larraín.
Unbeatable Record for Aluminum Recycling
RIO DE JANEIRO, (Tierramérica).- Brazil leads the way in recycling aluminum cans, with recovery reaching 89 percent of the total produced in 2003, surpassing Japan, which is second worldwide with 81.8 percent.
The South American giant has also seen strong performance in recycling other materials, like glass, plastic and paper.
But not when it comes to organic waste, which represents 55 percent of the weight of urban garbage, with just 1.5 percent being recycled, according to figures from CEMPRE, a Brazilian association that promotes waste reduction and recycling.
In the United States, organic waste represents 11.2 percent of all urban waste, and 59.3 percent of it is recycled.
Poverty is a factor that favors recycling efforts in Brazil, as it has become a source of income.
Fungus Threatens Cacao
GUATEMALA CITY, (Tierramérica).- Cacao production in Guatemala could be devastated if moniliasis reaches the country, farmers warn the government. This plant disease is caused by a fungus that attacks the cacao bean and is already found in Honduras and El Salvador.
''As much as 80 percent of the cacao crops could be lost in six of Guatemala's 22 departments,'' cacao expert Erich Eger told Tierramérica. Guatemala produces 1,100 tons of dry cacao annually.
''In Honduras, the same thing happened. They thought the fungus (Moniliophthota roreri) would never reach them, but when it did, their production dropped 80 percent,'' he said.
Honduras produced 4,500 tons of cacao in 1997, but just 900 tons in 2003.
Engineer Eduardo Hernández, of the Agriculture Ministry, said the disease has not yet been reported in Guatemala, but ''we know that in Honduras and El Salvador they are reporting infected crops.''
The fungus was first found more than 100 years ago in Ecuador, and primarily affects the fruit of the cacao tree
NGOs and Military United Against Disaster
TEGUCIGALPA, (Tierramérica).- More than 400 soldiers from Latin America and representatives from 10 non-governmental organizations from Europe, Africa and the United States, began training Aug. 23 in disaster prevention, mine clean-up, disarmament in conflict zones, and protection of water sources.
Col. Gerardo Fuentes, of the Honduran armed forces, told Tierramérica that the civilian-military actions are part of the ''Honduras-North 2004'' exercise, which aims to bring armies and civil society together to share knowledge and to carry out ''joint operations in cases of natural disaster.''
The initiative, under way in Tegucigalpa, is part of the cooperative aid effort of the U.S. State Department with Doctors Without Borders, the Catholic-based Caritas, and other NGOs.
U.S. military officer David Robles told the local press last week that one of the scenarios will be how to protect potable water in arenas of conflic *Source: Inter Press Service.
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