Snakes on a Plain... and in the City
Causes of deforestation in the Amazon, 2000-2005 (source: mongabay.com)
Deforestation of northern Brazil's rainforests is pushing insanely huge reptiles out of their habitats - and into dense urban areas. Sitting on the mouth of the Amazon River, the Brazilian city of Belem, home to 1.5 million people, may be becoming a replacement habitat for amazon snakes. Authorities have already been called upon to capture 21 snakes inside the city this year, a large jump from an average of one or two calls a month in previous years. One of the displaced was a 10 foot long anaconda, rarely found outside of the jungle.
Despite recent claims by the government of Brazil that the rate of rainforest destruction has been slowing down, new data suggests that deforestation has continued apace, and possibly even gathered speed. Cattle ranchers bear the majority of the responsibility for forest clearing in Brazil's northern rainforests, although the North American ethanol boom could also be a cause. As corn replaces soy on US farms, agribusiness has been expanding soy plantations in South America, in order to take advantage of rising soy prices.
According to Dr. Philip Fearnside, of the Brazilian National Institute for Research in the Amazon (INPA), soybean cultivation's greatest contribution to rainforest clearance is indirect. As soy plantations take over areas close to rainforests, cattle ranchers and small farmers are pushed further into rainforest areas. Large-scale soy farms also create pressures for new highways and infrastructure, further threatening rainforests.
As for Belem's snakes, veterinarians capture them and move them to zoos and outlying parks, where they live on, until the next time they slither into the city.