In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Aerial view of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. (© filipefrazao)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

  1. A rising threat to wildlife: electrocution

Electric fences, trip wires and power lines are killing or severely injuring wildlife across Africa and Asia.

The story: Animals as small as birds and as large as elephants are being electrocuted, some on a mass scale, and the issue may be contributing to the endangerment or extinction of certain species, Rachel Nuwer reported for The New York Times last week. Trip wires — designed to deter lions and bush pigs — are the culprit most of the time, killing countless tortoises and pangolins.

The big picture: Because many of the electrocutions occur in remote areas, it is impossible for scientists to accurately determine population losses. Endangered species such as the Asian elephant and white rhino have been found electrocuted. These mishaps take a heavy toll on conservation efforts by killing endangered species, cause power interruptions to millions of people and cause billions of dollars in damage.

Read the story here.

  1. Jair Bolsonaro launches assault on Amazon rainforest protections

Jair Bolsonaro was inaugurated as Brazil’s president on January 1, and he wasted no time enacting his agenda.

The story: Bolsonaro gave the agricultural ministry — controlled by agribusiness lobbyists — the right to transfer, regulate and create indigenous reserves, Dom Phillips reported for The Guardian last week. Funai, an indigenous agency, previously held this role.

The big picture: Now, agribusiness lobbyists have the power to use indigenous land — 13 percent of Brazilian territory — to satisfy their agenda. In another move against indigenous peoples, the new health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, has said the government may cut public health care spending for indigenous peoples.

Read the story here.


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  1. How Trump’s wall would alter our biological identity forever

The border wall would cut through the habitats of more than 1,500 species in one of the richest biological regions in the world.

The story: The physical barrier of the wall prevents animals from reaching other members of their species — which can lead to inbreeding — limits access to water and food, and makes floods deadlier for wildlife, Jennifer R.B. Miller reported for Scientific American last week. The physicality of the wall is only part of the damage: The actual building of the wall harms wildlife by destroying essential habitat and polluting the area with light and noise, not to mention constant disturbances from patrol cars.

The big picture: The wall isn’t a distant nightmare: 600 miles of it has already been built, and non-flying species and certain butterflies are unable to access their previous habitat. “Further construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall will undoubtedly lead to the death of countless species in the process — adding to the 10 million species marching toward extinction worldwide as a result of the broader human footprint,” Miller wrote.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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