How Drugs Kill Forests

<p>Drug traffickers, growers and drug law enforcement agents are wreaking havok on the forests of Central America, where large plots of forest are clear-cut for drug crop growing and sprayed to eliminate illicit substances.</p>
April 18, 2008, 9am PDT | Nate Berg
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"The national parks of Guatemala and other countries have become the preferred haven of drug traffickers who usurp protected areas and burn the forest to serve their own purposes and the demands of their customers, according to Roan McNab, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) country director for Guatemala."

"Similar misuse of parklands has plagued Colombia since at least the 1990s, and the Sierra de la Macarena National Park there is home to some 13,000 hectares (32,100 acres) of coca plantations, according to field data compiled by the illegal-drug monitoring U.N. body the Sistema Integrado de Monitoreo de Cultivos Ilicitos. As a result, officials have targeted the park for herbicide spraying from airplanes. Of course, this indiscriminately kills both coca and forest vegetation as well as poses a risk to the area's frogs and other amphibians."

"In Guatemala, drug traffickers clear a new landing strip on average once every six months to avoid being caught. And, over the last 15 years, trafficking has eliminated half the nesting trees of the scarlet macaw. At El Mirador, the jungle-covered remains of a once flourishing Mayan city, its pending listing as a new national park will likely invite narco-traffickers to take over the home of those same scarlet macaws as well as white-lipped peccaries, jaguars and other animals."

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Published on Thursday, April 17, 2008 in Scientific American
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