The bean effect


A drought in Brazil can affect the Indian tiger population, says a recent study. As the world's largest coffee producer reeled under long spells of drought in the mid-90s, its bean output fell by 50 per cent.

Global coffee prices boiled over. Smelling an opportunity, Indian planters scaled up operations. The farmers living on the peripheries of the forest reserves such as Bandipur in the Western Ghats, too, did their bit by supplying cowdung to the plantations.

As dung started selling “like brown gold”, the farmers switched to cattle-rearing and increased their livestock—“17 times faster than the national average”—notes the study, published in Conservation Biology.

Droppings don't come out of thin air; the cattle needed to be fed. Go, graze in the woods, said the farmers. The bovines razed them. And, the tiger's natural habitat and prey population kept shrinking. The rest is natural history. A similar impact of global markets on ecology is currently being witnessed in Cote d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast, too. Here, the victims are rare primates, and the villain is coffee's cousin, cocoa.

Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa producer, and it sates about one-third of the world's demand for the 'food of gods'. A recent study published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science says illegal cocoa plantations have been rampantly flourishing across protected areas of the west African nation, pushing the primates into peril.

One endangered species, the Miss Waldron's red colobus, could already be extinct. “The Roloway monkey may be the next to go...,” writes W. Scott McGraw, coauthor of the study.

This browser settings will not support to add bookmarks programmatically. Please press Ctrl+D or change settings to bookmark this page.