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Pulp mill devastates swans' sanctuary in Chile

A recently opened pulp mill in Chile has devastated one of South America's most biologically outstanding wetlands, decimating its famed population of black-necked swans, along with most other bird life, a WWF-led team of investigators said Monday.

"What was probably the largest population of black necked swans in South America has been wiped out in less than a year. It is an environmental catastrophe," said Clifton Curtis, director of World Wildlife Fund's Global Toxic Program. "Before the pulp mill, there were more than 5,000 black necked swans in the Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary. When we visited the core of the sanctuary in August, we could find only four."

The Carlos Anwandter Nature Sanctuary covers more than 12,000 acres of wetlands along the Cruces river in the southernmost Chilean province of Valdivia. An officially designated "wetland of international importance" under the Ramsar convention, it was home to more than 100 species of rare, vulnerable or, in at least two cases, endangered species of birds--the Coscoroba swan and the white-faced Ibis. It was also the largest nesting area in South America for the black necked swan, the region's iconic species and a major tourist attraction.

"This was an area that was once teeming with water birds," added David Tecklin, WWF's Valdivia ecoregion coordinator. "Now, within the space of just months, it has become an empty expanse of brown, polluted water. It is a water desert. Words really can't describe the magnitude of the disaster here."

The investigators, who made two visits to the area, in August and October, affirmed earlier findings by the Austral University of Chile that pulp waste from the plant owned by CELCO, Chile's largest timber conglomerate, is most likely responsible for the catastrophic collapse of the swan population.

The scientists concluded then that contaminants from the plant contributed to a massive die off of luchecillo, the aquatic vegetation that wa
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Source:World Wildlife Fund


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