Saturday, July 10, 2010

Brazilian Law Proposal Threatens Cat That Mimics Baby Monkey Calls

Saturday, 10 July, 2010

Source: Takepart

A housecat-sized predator called a margay waits in the shadows and makes a plaintive peep, calling up into the trees. Above it, a squirrel-sized monkey, a pied tamarin, looks down, worried—is that the sound of one of its babies?

It’s darn close, but it’s part of a devious deception by the nocturnal feline, which mimics the cries of a young tamarin to lure its prey into striking range.

If it sounds like a crafty ruse, scientists would agree: researchers say the cat displays “psychological cunning” with the tactic, according to Mongabay.com.

But the feline's habitat may be under grave threat according to another piece out of Mongabay today: an amendment to loosen Brazil’s 1965 forestry code has passed its first legislative hurdle, Jeremy Hance reports.

The margay (and the endangered pied tamarin, for that matter) lives in ranges throughout the Brazilian rainforest.

The amendment concerns proposals for the agricultural development of forested land in the country, pushed by "ruralistas," or legislators tied to the agribusiness community, ecopolitology reports.

In the crosshairs is the forestry code’s requirement that Amazon landowners must retain 80 percent of their land as preserved forest. If that provision is lost, the World Wildlife Fund says 85 million hectares of forest will be opened up to the threat of legal clearing.

The WWF notes that Brazil’s forestry code has been successful in curbing deforestation, but in a release this week warns the proposed amendment might undermine that progress. Along with allowing more legal forest clearing, WWF says the revised guidelines would put oversight in the hands of local and regional authorities—who are much more likely to be influenced by landowners and agribusiness interests.

The proposed amendment now moves to Brazil’s congress for consideration. News of its passage comes on the heels of a report that, in areas that remain protected, oversight has been very successful.

The Hindu on Thursday noted that enforcement had helped keep large areas of rainforest undisturbed, and had halted some unofficial road building. Researchers also found that illegal gold mining and logging operations continue.

Meanwhile, scientists said they will continue to monitor the margay cat and tamarin monkey and investigate reports that other predatory felines, such as jaguars and pumas, also use vocal mimicry to lure in prey.

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