Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sr. de la Torre, I beg to differ!

Guano-mania rages again in Peru!

ISLA DE ASIA Peru— The worldwide boom in commodities has come to this: Even guano, the bird dung that was the focus of an imperialist scramble on the high seas in the 19th century, is in strong demand once again. Surging prices for synthetic fertilizers and organic foods are shifting attention to guano, an organic fertilizer once found in abundance on this island and more than 20 others off the coast of Peru, where an exceptionally dry climate preserves the droppings of seabirds like the guanay cormorant and the Peruvian booby.

But all is not well in the guano kingdom:

While the bird population has climbed to 4 million from 3.2 million in the past two years, that figure still pales in comparison with the 60 million birds at the height of the first guano rush. Faced with a dwindling anchoveta population, officials at Proabonos are considering halting exports of guano to ensure its supply to the domestic market.

Uriel de la Torre, a biologist who specializes in conserving the guanay cormorant and other seabirds, said that unless some measure emerged to prevent overfishing, both the anchovetas and the seabirds here could die off by 2030.

“It would be an inglorious conclusion to something that has survived wars and man’s other follies,” Mr. de la Torre said. “But that is the scenario we are facing: the end of guano.”

Oh Sr. de la Torre, you just couldn't be more wrong. I invite you to come to Washington DC, where I assure you there is no end to the guano!