Our sweet contribution to extinction

Thirty years of veterinary work and dedication to wildlife conservation endorse this great professional and excellent person. Photographs and text shared by our fantastic colleague

Dr Eduardo Gazol

Xalapa Veterinary Center Director. Mexico

Four thousand five hundred years ago started the cultivation of sugarcane in New Guinea. Its subsequent arrival in Europe and dispersion throughout the world by the great European empires, taking advantage of the climatic benefits of their colonies in America, Africa and Asia. Since then, it has become an almost indispensable consumer item for the human being; in fact, it is already considered an essential element. Today the growing human population demands more than 167 million tons of sugar a year (international sugar organization. ISO. May 2020).

However, the story is not so sweet, along the time was written stories of exploitation, slavery and devastation to the environment. Not to mention the adverse effects on our health such as obesity, diabetes, among others; There are even currents in nutrition that speak of “sugar addiction”. 

Sugar

Obsolete farming techniques have made sugar a severe threat to the planet.

From an environmental point of view, obsolete agricultural techniques for the production of sugarcane and its subsequent transformation have turned sugar into a severe threat to the planet. Deforestation for its cultivation is the most grotesque evidence; If you consider an average production of 40 tons of cane per hectare and each ton of cane yields 60 KG of sugar, to meet specific expectations (ISO), more than 69 million hectares are required, 69 million hectares without a single tree ; With their respective consequences on soils, erosion, climate, cold water layers, flora and fauna obviously. Without specifying a large amount of water required to make this plantation productive and to later transform the cane into sugar plus some other by-products; It is estimated that 1500 liters of water are needed to produce 1 kg of sugar.

Tigrillo (Leopardus tigrinus) 

Sacha Project, Ecuador.

Part of the agricultural sugarcane process involves setting fire to the fields before harvest, a practice that is appalling in all respects.

Last year the world was shocked by wildfires in Australia and other parts of the world. Scenes of Koalas and other animals tore the hearts of society, the sugar-eating society itself. Let’s dimension the problem, according to different sources, there are around 10 million hectares burned in Australia; however, the sugar industry consumes 69 million, almost seven times more; the consequences are devastating.

The first signs of death in the wild population are the increase in pollution gases and its impact on the atmosphere. The significant sugar implications for global warming must be the subject of meticulous studies.

That image of the Koala and its last breath is a day to day in rescue centres in sugar-producing countries. For wildlife veterinarians in these countries, the harvesting means anguish, pain, death. Nothing so sweet.

During this period, all kind of animals arrive with truly devastating injuries, and despite medical advances, the commitment of specialists; the vast majority die or are left with irreversible consequences. The care of burned animals consumes the budgets of these centres.

Raccoon (Procyon lotor)

Sacha Project, Ecuador

Treatments: Assessment of damage, healing promoter ointment, moisturising gel, anaesthetics, antibiotics …

Burns involve extremely painful visible injuries; indeed, poisoning, physiological and biochemical disturbances, injuries to internal organs, loss of sensory functions and death. Although these patients have a very low success rate in the treatment, the anguish increases when we think of the kilometres of animals that are burned in flames: insects, reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals.

Unaccounted deaths and heroic medical and financial juggling of rescue centres must become the flavour of our desserts; We must cling to responsible updating and transformation of sugar agricultural practices, to the modification of our palates and to finding the sweetness in life and not in death.

Anteater bear (Tamandua mexicana)

American Linx (Linx rufus)

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