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Silent slaughter among the birds of a reserve in Panama

The ocellated anteater, a rainforest host in Panama's Soberania Natural Park, is a declining species.

The ocellated anteater, Phaenostictus mcleannani, is one of the rainforest hosts in Soberania National Park, Panama. Like 70% of the bird species that frequent it, its population is in decline – some have lost more than half their numbers in forty years. Only a hummingbird and a puffin have seen their number of individuals increase. This grim observation is made in the PNAS of April 4 by a team from the University of Illinois which, since 1977, has been carrying out bird counts every six months. The decline has surprised researchers all the more since the 22,000 hectares of the park have in principle remained preserved for more than fifty years. The study does not make it possible to identify the reasons for this fall in the population, nor to extrapolate it to the whole of the tropical forest, but the scientists wonder about the impact of global warming. They worry about the imbalances caused by this loss of biodiversity: birds, which disperse seeds, pollinate and eat insects, are a key component of the tropical forest.

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