Posts Tagged ‘Colombia’

Another warning

Casanare drought raises Colombia climate fears

Colombian cattleman Daniel Cuadra: “I don’t know what the future holds, but we need to prepare ourselves because next year could be worse.”

The rotting corpses of dead cows and wild capybaras line the road that leads from Paz de Ariporo to Hato Las Taparas in the Colombian province of Casanare.

At least 20,000 animals, including wild pigs, deer, small crocodiles and tortoises have died of thirst during a catastrophic dry season in this central region.

And many fear this year’s drought is only heralding a future of increasingly harsh summers and even more severe water shortages in Colombia’s plains.

Dry as bone

“Here we have two very distinct seasons: a dry season and a rainy season,” explains Angely Rodriguez who overseas agricultural and environmental affairs in Paz de Ariporo.

“In a couple of months, it will be raining so much, all this will be like a mirror, completely flooded.”

But that will be of little consolation to farmers whose livestock has been decimated.

Ms Rodriguez says dry spells – which usually last from December to April – are nothing new for the inhabitants of Casanare, but “never before during the dry season did we have such a lack of water”.

As we drive across the yellow plains, all we seem to come across are tanker lorries.

Some are carrying water to replenish ponds, marshes and other natural drinking sources as part of efforts by the authorities to alleviate the suffering of wildlife and cattle.

Water is being delivered to some of the worst hit areas to replenish ponds, but many of the lorries carry oil

But the large majority carry oil extracted from under the soil of these plains.

Ms Rodriguez thinks the recent boom in oil exploration and extraction in the area is to blame for the water scarcity in the summer months. “We’ve seen water sources that used to last all summer run completely dry,” she tells the BBC.

“We’re aware global climate change is part of the problem. But we also need to look into the consequences of seismic exploration and how much water the oil industry is extracting,” she says, as we drive past a flock of vultures feasting on another dead cow.

‘Too simplistic’

Like Ms Rodriguez, many worry about the consequences of seismic reflection – an exploration method that uses small controlled explosions to create an image similar to a sonogram to help locate new oil deposits.

Many in Colombia fear that this method affects water sources, and dismiss oil industry studies which suggest the contrary.

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Nature Ramble

Colombia and Ecuador this week and the discovery of a ‘new’ mammal. Well, the animal has been around for a while, it’s just that we didn’t know it.

It’s rather astounding because the last mammal discovered was 35 years ago, so this event isn’t an everyday occurrence.

Olinguito:

‘Overlooked’ mammal carnivore is major discovery

Scientists in the US have discovered a new animal living in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador.

It has been named olinguito and is the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years.

It has taken more than a decade to identify the mammal, a discovery that scientists say is incredibly rare in the 21st Century.

The credit goes to a team from the Smithsonian Institution.

The trail began when zoologist Kristofer Helgen uncovered some bones and animal skins in storage at a museum in Chicago.

“It stopped me in my tracks,” he told BBC News. “The skins were a rich red colour and when I looked at the skulls I didn’t recognise the anatomy. It was different to any similar animal I’d seen, and right away I thought it could be a species new to science.”

Meet the olinguito and the man who discovered the new mammal species

Dr Helgen is curator of mammals at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, which houses the largest mammal collection in the world.

More than 600,000 specimens are flat-packed in trays to save space, their bones picked clean by specially bred beetles and stored in boxes alongside their skins.

Many were collected more than a century ago and were often mislabelled or not properly identified. But recent advances in technology have enabled scientists to extract DNA from even the oldest remains.

The 35cm-long (14in) olinguito is the latest addition to the animal family that includes racoons. By comparing DNA samples with the other five known species, Dr Helgen was able to confirm his discovery.

“It’s hard for me to explain how excited I am,” he says.

“The olinguito is a carnivore – that group of mammals that includes cats, dogs and bears and their relatives. Many of us believed that list was complete, but this is a new carnivore – the first to be found on the American continent for more than three decades.”

Dr Helgen has used such mammal collections to identify many other new species, including the world’s biggest bat and the world’s smallest bandicoot. But he says the olinguito is his most significant discovery. Its scientific name is Bassaricyon neblina. The last carnivore to be identified in the Americas was the Colombian Weasel.

But even after identifying the olinguito, a crucial question remained: could they be living in the wild?

“We used clues from the specimens about where they might have come from and to predict what kind of forest we might find them in – and we found it!”

MAP

The olinguito is now known to inhabit a number of protected areas from Central Colombia to western Ecuador. Although it is a carnivore, it eats mainly fruit, comes out at night and lives by itself, producing just one baby at a time.

And scientists now believe an olinguito was exhibited in several zoos in the US between 1967 and 1976. Its keepers mistook it for an olinga – a close relative – and could not understand why it would not breed. It was sent to a number of different zoos but died without being properly identified.

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Nature Ramble

Our ramble today takes us to the forests of Colombia and Ecuador to have a look at a strange bird.

Well, it’s not the bird that is strange, but how it makes its mating call.

Dense wing bones help this tiny South American bird to sing make its unique “wing violin music”.

“The only bird known to sing with its wings contains some secrets of its performance in its bones, researchers have found.

The club-winged manakin, which lives in the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador, performs a mate-attracting song by rubbing its wings together.”

The male club-winged manakin performs its mating call

“Most birds have hollow wing bones, the club-winged manakin’s are “bulky and solid”.

During a courtship display, male club-winged manakins (Machaeropterus deliciosus) knock their wings above their backs to create sound.

Dr Bostwick thinks that having ridged, vibrating feathers attached to a solid, stiff mass is the best way to make sure the vibrations are emitted from the feather as sound, rather than being absorbed into the bone.

Dr Bostwick was the first to decode the mechanism behind the manakin’s unique sound – revealing a new kind of birdsong.”

Source: BBC News Read the full story

Here’s another manakin species, dubbed “the Michael Jackson” bird…

Red Capped Manakin Pipra mentalis ignifera from Panama

Maybe the fact that the bird lives near coca growing areas explains his dance…

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