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Amazonia: The empty forest

October 27th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

We all now about the over-exploitation and over-hunting in many ecosystems, including the Amazonian forests. Recently, travelling in Brazil I found some figures on the magnitude of the hunting in the Amazon, they are unbelievable:

Number of animals legally exported from one single port (Iquitos, a river port in the Peruvian Amazon) during 5 years (1962-1967):

183,664 – Monkeys
149,256 – Caiman species (Melanosuchus and Caiman)
67,575 – Capybaras (Hydrochaeris)
47,851 – Otter (Lutra)
2,529 – Giant otter (Pteronura)
61,499 – Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis = Felis pardalis)
9,565 – Margay (Leopardus wiedii = Felis wiedii)
5,345 – Jaguar (Panthera onca)
690,210 – Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu = Tayassu tajacu)
239,472 – White-lipped Peccary, Tayassu pecari,
239,470 – Deer (Mazama)

Total > 1.6 millions of animals!

But, you need to add those that were hunted for local consumption (estimated to be as many as to those hunted for legally exporting, above), and those hunted illegally (estimated to be much more that those hunted legally). And this is only for one single port, for a only 5 years, and only for large mammals and caimans … (birds, turtles, lizards, etc… are also hunted). This strong defaunation of vertebrates has implication not only on animal biodiversity but it has also cascading effects on ecosystems (e.g., reducing predation, herbivory, dispersal of plants, etc.). [more info: R. Dirzo]

The Amazon is now a great place for any biologist, how would it be if it was not an empty forest!

Amazon_Manaus_RioNegro-RioSolimoes
MISR image of the Central Amazon showing the city of Manaus, the meeting-of-the-waters where the Rio Negro and Rio Solimoes merge.

Sources:
Fenandéz, F. 2009. O poema imperfeito, 2on ed., UFPR editora.
Redford, K.H. 1992. The empty forest. BioScience, 42(6), 412–422.

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