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Global Love of Bananas May Be Hurting Costa Rica's Crocodiles

We Americans love bananas. Each year, we eat more bananas than any other fruit and most banana growers make heavy use of pesticides. For example, one-third of all the pesticides殺蟲劑 used in Costa Rica哥斯大黎加, one of the major suppliers供應商 of the world's bananas, is on banana plantations. And now, a new study from Costa Rica suggests that these pesticides may be hurting wildlife.
As NPR's Rhitu Chatterjee reports, the chemicals are winding up in the bodies of crocodiles.
RHITU CHATTERJEE, BYLINE: There's a reason why banana farmers use a lot of pesticides.
CHRIS WILLE: Banana plantations大型農場 are in the tropics, where there are a lot more kinds of pests and in abundance數量繁多.
CHATTERJEE: That's Chris Wille, the chief of sustainable agriculture熱帶雨林保育聯盟. He works with banana growers to help them reduce the amount of pesticides they use. And it's not just insects they're trying to control, he says, there are fungal diseases黴菌病蟲害, too.
WILLE: When you see pictures of airplanes spraying banana farms, they're spraying for an airborne fungal disease called Black Sigatoka, which can devastate破壞 a plantation in a matter of a week or so.
CHATTERJEE: Many of Costa Rica's banana plantations are in the remote northeastern region among streams溪流, canals運河and rainforests雨林. That's where Paul Grant, a wildlife biologist at Stellenbosch University, in South Africa, went to investigate whether pesticides are hurting local wildlife.
PAUL GRANT: In the past, I have witnessed and other locals have pointed out that there have been massive大量的fish kills as a result of pesticide exposure in high levels高濃度.
CHATTERJEE: Grant wanted to know if these pesticides are also ending up in animals that eat the fish. In particular, he was interested in a small crocodile called a spectacled caiman一種美洲的熱帶鱷魚, because a bony ridge between its eyes雙眼間有一個脊狀的突起 makes it look like its wearing eye glasses. These caimans live in the Tortugero Conservation Area托爾圖格羅保育區, which is just downstream from the banana farms.
GRANT: Because they're long lived and they're at the top of the food chain位於食物鏈的最上端, a lot of the pesticides will kind of wind up最後會跑到 at the top.
CHATTERJEE: He collected blood samples from 14 adult caimans, some that lived closer to plantations and others further downstream in cleaner waters. He and his colleagues analyzed the blood samples for 70 different pesticides. What they found concerned him. The samples contained nine pesticides, two of which are currently in use and...
GRANT: Seven of which were historic persistent organic pollutants.長久性有機污染物
CHATTERJEE: These are pesticides like DDT, dieldrin and endosulfan, chemicals that have been banned for nearly a decade but persist in the environment and build up in the bodies of animals.


Peter Ross is an environmental scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia維多利亞大徐 and also an author on this study. He says even though the overall levels of the pesticides were modest適度/少量, there was some indication that they were causing harm.
PETER ROSS: What was revealing to me was the fact that the caiman that were near banana plantations had not only higher concentrations高濃度 of most of the pesticides that were detected, they were in a poorer state of health健康狀況也較不好 relative to the caiman that were in the more pristine原始的(未遭到破壞或是污染的), remote areas.
CHATTERJEE: Ross and his colleagues have published their findings in the latest issue of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
Chris Wille of the Rainforest Alliance says there's an important lesson here.
WILLE: You know, we're now reckoning with判斷/估算 the problem left by past use of highly toxic, highly persistent pesticides非常持久的殺蟲劑. So, what plantations must avoid now is leaving similar toxic legacies遺產/留給後人的東西 for the next generation to deal with.
CHATTERJEE: Especially as the demand for bananas has been growing worldwide and plantations are moving towards more intensive methods of cultivation密集式的栽培.
Rhitu Chatterjee, NPR News.



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