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Image of a colorful species of poison dart frog.  This image links to a more detailed image.Situation
A medicine man who makes his home in the tropical rainforest of the Amazon listens intently as huge trees crash to the forest's floor in the distance. He has been told that machines are being used to build roads into the forest and that many trees are being taken away on trucks. He wonders how long the plants and animals that are the sources for the potions he makes to heal and protect the members of this tribe will remain. As he looks at the ground, he notices a dart frog that provides the poisonous venom for the points of the darts and arrows the tribesmen use. By rubbing the points of the dart and arrows across the back of one of these frogs, hunters ensure a swift death to their prey. Left: Dendrobates Tinctorius, a colorful species of poison dart frog, is found in the humid forests of French Guiana, Surinam, and Guyana. Photo: Chris Valdez, courtesy of the Oglebay Parks Good Zoo

Image of a Yagua tribesman using a blowgun.  This image links to a more detailed image.At the same time, a medical researcher in the United States is engaged in a study to identify the medicinal properties of the dart frog's poison. Other researchers throughout the world are studying exotic vegetation that is found only in the tropical rainforests. One ethnobotanist has cataloged over 200 of these exotic plants along with their medical remedies. Soothing burns, easing childbirth, and healing infections are among some of the beneficial uses derived from these plants. Right: Blowguns such as the one held by this Yagua tribesman have been used as an effective weapon in the Amazon for centuries. Photo: Larry Cartmill

Environmentalists are attempting to measure the impact of the rainforest on the entire biosphere. Much of their data indicates a significant and wide ranging influence, which leads to concerns over the consequences of deforestation. Many argue that the destruction of the rainforest should be stopped.

On the other hand, developers and builders as well as exporters and some South American governmental agencies maintain that the economic growth and prosperity of the region and its people require the continued "development" of the rainforest. Hewed trees are providing materials for construction and exportable products. Cleared land is providing space for people to enjoy an improved standard of living.

Is there a problem? Is the Amazon, the richest area of biodiversity in the world, threatened by human beings? Your group has been contacted by the Global Research Information Network (G.R.I.N.), an impartial panel composed of scientists and representatives from government, business, and industry. They want you to analyze the situation and make recommendations. They aren't sure what position to take concerning poison dart frogs and other species in the Amazon.

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Last updated November 10, 2004

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