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Wed Jul 26, 2017, 07:49 PM

People and wildlife now threatened by rapid destruction of central America's forests


'Human Footprint and Cow's Hoofprint' report shows illegal cattle ranching is responsible for more than 90 percent of forest loss in remaining wildlife strongholds


NEW YORK (July 25, 2017) - Central America's largest remaining forests are disappearing at a precipitous rate due to illegal cattle ranching, oil palm plantations, and other human-related activities, all of which are putting local communities and the region's wildlife species at high risk.

A new comprehensive study by WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) titled the "Human Footprint and Cow's Hoofprint Analysis" was presented this month for validation and analysis by indigenous groups, protected area agencies, and civil society organizations from nine countries. This spurred the development of a joint commitment known as "The PetÚn Declaration." Signed by 25 of the attending organizations, the declaration recognizes the causes of forest loss and commits to concrete actions to address them.

One of the most alarming discoveries made by the study's research team is that the three largest remaining forest blocks in Central America have been reduced in size by more than 23 percent in the past 15 years. The study was conducted by WCS in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Organization of American States to understand and protect Mesoamerica's last great forests. Data for the analysis was collected using satellite imagery, census data on people and cattle/agriculture, publications, interviews, and via a megaflyover expedition: an ambitious plane-based survey across the region's largest forests.

"The disappearance of huge swaths of forests over such a short time period has grave implications for the indigenous peoples in the region and the natural resources on which they depend," said Victor Hugo Ramos, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist for the WCS Mesoamerica program.


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