quinta-feira, 1 de dezembro de 2011


One Woman's Fight to Keep Brazil's Wild Birds Aloft
Posted: Mon 10/31/2011 02:06 AM | By: Laura Kiniry
Photo: Courtesy of SOS FAUNA
Photo: Courtesy of SOS FAUNA
Biologist Juliana Machado Ferreira is working to keep bird populations aloft.

With more than 1,800 native avian species, Brazil is home to one of the most diverse bird populations on the planet. But each year, poachers capture hundreds of thousands of birds—including red-cowled cardinals, green-winged saltators, and buffy-fronted seedeaters—to sell as pets in towns and cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Luckily, Brazilian police are able to rescue many of these birds from homes, fairs, and cargo trucks—which is where 31-year-old doctoral student Juliana Machado Ferreira comes in.

A volunteer with wildlife organization SOS FAUNA, which aids law enforcement in their efforts against poachers and rehabilitates seized creatures, Ferreira is studying ways for science to ensure these rescued birds are returned to their home forests. Releasing the birds in the wrong place—and mixing animals from separate genetic populations—could lead to outbreeding depression, a phenomenon that can result in offspring that are poorly adapted to their environment. "By constructing a bird's genetic profile through DNA extraction and comparing it to the genetic populations within a species, I hope to determine its likely origin," Ferreira says. "That's the first step in reintegrating it."

Photo: Courtesy of SOS FAUNA
Photo: Courtesy of SOS FAUNA
On a typical day in the field, Ferreira ventures out on predawn trips into Brazil's forests and savannas—where she risks coming face-to-face with the armed poachers she's battling—to collect blood samples. She also spends part of the year at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's National Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon; a sort of CSI for animals, it's the world's only scientific lab devoted entirely to solving crimes against wildlife. Ferreira hopes to establish a similar lab in Brazil to further her fight against this mostly undocumented environmental crisis, which threatens more than just the exploited birds. "When a species is regularly taken from the wild," she says, "over time the effect can unbalance the entire ecosystem." For the brainy and passionate Ferreira, winning this war might just be in the genes.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/blogs/One-Womans-Fight-to-Keep-Brazils-Wild-Birds-Aloft#ixzz1fIJhdqhT

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