An Aquatic Paradise in Mexico, Pushed to the Edge of Extinction

2/22/2017 New York Times

xochimilcoXOCHIMILCO, Mexico — With their gray-green waters and blue herons, the canals and island farms of Xochimilco in southern Mexico City are all that remain of the extensive network of shimmering waterways that so awed Spanish invaders when they arrived here 500 years ago.

But the fragility of this remnant of pre-Columbian life was revealed last month, when a 20-feet-deep hole opened in the canal bed, draining water and alarming hundreds of tour boat operators and farmers who depend on the waterways for a living.

The hole intensified a simmering conflict over nearby wells, which suck water from Xochimilco’s soil and pump it to other parts of Mexico City. It also revived worries about a process of decline, caused by pollution, urban encroachment and subsidence, that residents and experts fear may destroy the canals in a matter of years.

“This is a warning,” said Sergio Raúl Rodríguez Elizarrarás, a geologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “We are driving the canals towards their extinction.”

Read more…

Biologists Find Weird Cave Life That May Be 50,000 Years Old

2/17/2017 New York Times

cave-flickr-creative-commonsIn a Mexican cave system so beautiful and hot that it is called both Fairyland and hell, scientists have discovered life trapped in crystals that could be 50,000 years old.

The bizarre and ancient microbes were found dormant in caves in Naica, Mexico, and were able to exist by living on minerals such as iron and manganese, said Penelope Boston, head of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute. .

“It’s super life,” said Boston, who presented the discovery Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston.

If confirmed, the find is yet another example of how microbes can survive in extremely punishing conditions on Earth.

Read more…

Spyware’s Odd Targets: Backers of Mexico’s Soda Tax

2/11/2017 New York Times

using smartphoneSAN FRANCISCO — Last summer, Dr. Simón Barquera’s phone started buzzing with a series of disturbing text messages from unknown numbers. One said his daughter had been in a serious accident. Another claimed to be from a friend whose father had died — with a link to funeral details.

Yet another message informed Dr. Barquera, the director of nutrition policy at Mexico’s National Institute of Public Health, that a Mexican news outlet had accused him of negligence, again with a link. And in more menacing messages, someone claimed to be sleeping with Dr. Barquera’s wife. That included a link to what the sender claimed was photo evidence of their affair.

That same week, Luis Manuel Encarnación, then the director at Fundación Mídete, a foundation in Mexico City that battles obesity, also started receiving strange messages with links. When he clicked, Mr. Encarnación was ominously redirected to Gayosso, Mexico’s largest funeral service.

Read more…

WWF Calls for Fishing Ban to Save Last of Vaquita Porpoises

2/6/2017 New York Times

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAMEXICO CITY — The World Wildlife Fund on Monday called for a complete ban on fishing in the habitat of the vaquita porpoise, noting an international committee of experts has determined that fewer than 30 of the critically endangered mammals probably remain in the upper Gulf of California, the only place they live.

Experts and the Mexican government previously announced a plan to catch the few remaining vaquitas and enclose them in pens for protection and possible breeding.

But the World Wildlife Fund argued that is not the answer for the tiny porpoise, saying in a statement that “the only way to save the vaquita from extinction is for the Mexican government to immediately and indefinitely ban all fisheries within its habitat.”

Read more…

Vaquita going extinct as Mexico, China, dither

2/6/2017 The Ecologist

Vaquita4_Olson_NOAAThe world’s smallest porpoise is fast heading to extinction, writes Aron White thanks to Mexico’s failure to ban the use of gillnets in its range, and China’s illegal imports of totoaba fish swim bladders, used in Chinese medicine. Without urgent and effective action the vaquita will soon disappear for good.

Despite multiple commitments and increased international attention, efforts to save the world’s most endangered marine mammal are proving woefully inadequate.

The vaquita, a very rare species of porpoise found only in the northern Gulf of California in Mexico, stands today on the very edge of extinction.

Almost half those remaining were lost between 2015 and 2016, and the species is thought to number only about 30 individuals.

Read more…

 

Mexico confirms first case of Zika-related birth defect

2/3/2017 The Washington Post

Zika virusMEXICO CITY — Mexico’s health ministry has confirmed the first case of a Zika-related severe birth defect known as microcephaly.

The ministry said in a statement Friday that the child was premature and died at birth. It was born to a 25-year-old woman from the southern state of Oaxaca on Nov. 5, 2016.

The ministry says it took several months to confirm the microcephaly, which is characterized by newborns with abnormally small heads, was related to Zika.

Read more…

Mexico’s soda tax will save 18,900 lives and more than $983 million over 10 years, study says


11/4/16 Los Angeles Times

imagesA new estimate of the health impact of soda taxes in Mexico sheds some light on what’s at stake in ballot measures coming to a vote in three Bay-area cities and Boulder, Colo. next week. In cases of heart disease and diabetes averted, the model suggests that, in Mexico, those levies are on track to save close to a billion dollars and powerfully improve lives.

After a tandem run-up in consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, Mexico has become one of the fattest countries on Earth. In 2014, it adopted a 10% excise tax on the sale of sugary drinks.

The beverage producers claimed that soda taxes would do little to reduce consumption. But market surveys show that Mexicans reduced their purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages by an average of 6% in 2014 per household. And by December 2014, that drop in purchases was at 12%.

Read more…