Gold mining in the Amazon poisoning scores of threatened species – by Gloria Dickie and Jake Spring (Japan Times – August 7, 2023)

LOS AMIGOS BIOLOGICAL STATION, PERU – In a camping tent in the Peruvian jungle, four scientists are crowded around a tiny patient: An Amazonian rodent that could fit in the palm of a human hand.
The researchers placed the small-eared pygmy rice rat into a plastic chamber and piped in anesthetic gas until it rolled over, asleep.

Removing the creature from the chamber, they fitted it with a miniature anesthetic mask and measured its body parts with a ruler before gently pulling hairs from its back with tweezers. The hairs, bundled into a tiny plastic bag, would be carried to a nearby lab at the Los Amigos Biological Station for testing to determine whether the rat is yet another victim of mercury contamination.

Los Amigos lies in the rainforest of southeastern Peru’s Madre de Dios region where some 46,000 miners are searching for gold along river banks in the country’s epicenter of small-scale mining.

Tests like this are providing the first extensive indications that mercury from illegal and poorly regulated mining is affecting terrestrial mammals in the Amazon rainforest, according to preliminary findings from a world-first study.

For the rest of this article: