Brazil’s First Symposium on Exotic Species began Tuesday, October 4, and will run until Friday in the Brazilian capital city, BrasÀlia. There is no reliable data on the problem of nonindigenous invasive species in the country, but the Brazilian Ministry of Environment has begun a study of the situation and the symposium is a first step toward understanding the problem.
An invasive species can be an animal, plant or microorganism that is transported from its native environment, where it does not cause harm, to an alien environment, often with disastrous consequences.
Andre Jean Deberdt, of the Brazilian Environmental Protection Institute (Ibama) says that a study by the University of Cornell estimated worldwide losses of US$ 1.4 trillion per year due to invasive species. The losses would total US$ 137 billion in the US and US$ 49 billion in Brazil.
The main nonindigenous invasive species which cause damage in Brazil are wild boars (which the International Nature Conservation Union considers one of the worst invasive species), the golden mussel and African snails, along with African pine trees and grasses.
Wild boars entered Brazil a decade ago from Uruguay and now inhabit all of the Southern region of the country, plus Minas Gerais and Mato Grosso do Sul.
"They destroy crops and attack domestic animals, besides being a source of diseases that can destroy native fauna. They are extremely adaptable, living in most climates. Wild boars have become a serious problem in Rio Grande do Sul," says Deberdt.
African snails were brought to Brazil in 1980 as an alternative to escargots. Deberdt says they now infest the whole country. In August, Ibama prohibited raising African snails and ordered animal breeders working with them to destroy them within sixty days.
Some African plants were introduced as long ago as the colonial period. The result is that African grasses are substituting native flora by destroying it.
Under Brazilian legislation, no new species can be introduced into the country without Ibama authorization.