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Species protection in South America: In the territory of the scalloped hammerhead shark


How can endangered species be effectively protected? SPIEGEL reporter Philip Bethge accompanied animal rights activists in Peru and on the Galápagos Islands. A story about small sharks and big fish eaters.

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A beach on the Galápagos island of San Cristóbal.

Here in the shallows, juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks hide in the dark.

A team of scientists catches them, we are there.

The researchers study the sharks to ensure their survival.

Because: the scalloped hammerhead shark is threatened with extinction.

The scientists measure the young hammerhead sharks, take blood and faeces samples to determine their food sources.

All of this has to happen quickly.

If the little shark is not in the water for more than two minutes, it will suffocate.

Scalloped hammerheads are important to the regional ecosystem.

With their hunting behavior they ensure a natural balance, the US biologist Savannah Ryburn tells us.

Savannah Ryburn, biologist: “They don't expend too much energy on hunting, it's not beneficial for them.

They prefer to eat a quick meal.

For example, you kill an animal that is in trouble or in poor health.

This in turn contributes to the longevity of many populations.

This is how healthier generations of fish and crustaceans grow up.«

However, as their food supply is shrinking, sharks are dying of starvation more and more frequently.

Ryburn tries to understand the behavior of the not yet well researched animals in order to be able to protect them better.

The entire Galápagos Islands are a marine reserve, a last resort for scalloped hammerhead sharks.

But again and again specimens migrate out of the area and get into danger off the coast of Ecuador.

Savannah Ryburn, biologist: “A major threat to hammerheads is fishing.

They are mostly caught as bycatch in fishing nets and longlines.

And there is a specialized shark fishing industry.

Therefore, this species is now threatened with extinction.

We need clearer rules.

It is not enough to simply designate marine protected areas.

Otherwise we risk losing them as a species.”

Patrol monitoring needs to be improved to prevent illegal fishing in the protected areas, Ryburn said.

Animal species are threatened with extinction not only here on the islands, but also deep inland in South America.

After three days of travel on muddy tracks and through rivers, we and the research team arrive in a boat on Lake Salvador, an arm of the Manu River.

Specimens of the giant otter still live here.

It is one of the rarest mammals in the world and is considered critically endangered.

Hauke ​​Hoops has been doing research in Peru for the Frankfurt Zoological Society for many years.

He observes the animals in the rainforest from a floating platform.

Hauke ​​Hoops, biologist: »The best way for us to find them is to try to find them early in the morning or late in the evening while hunting in this oxbow lake.

They hunt fish in a group.

And as soon as they are found, we can document them and recognize them individually.«

The researchers spotted the animal in 17 backwaters of the Amazon.

Spots on the otter's throat help them to recognize each other, making it easy to identify each individual.

These rare close-ups have been taken by researchers over the last several years.

The giant otter builds its nests a meter above the water.

This year, 57 specimens of the animal were found here - in an area about the size of Thuringia.

Hauke ​​Hoops, biologist: »The giant otter is an indicator species.

It indicates that this ecosystem is still in a natural balance.

Because the giant otter needs an incredible amount of fish per day, approximately four kilos per individual.

And this abundance of fish is in turn an indicator that this natural balance still exists.

Because not only the giant otter feeds on fish, but also caimans and many different birds that can be found here.«

But the otter remains in danger: the deforestation of the rainforest and the pollution of the rivers, for example through gold mining, threaten the continued existence of the population.

And the constant presence of rangers and tourists also contributes to the fact that the giant otter can no longer spread undisturbed and loses its habitat.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-12-09

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