Anthropogenic lead in Amazonian wildlife


Lead levels and isotopic fingerprints in 315 free-ranging animals belonging to 18 wild game species in four remote areas of the Peruvian Amazon provide a comprehensive picture of anthropogenic lead pollution in tropical rainforests. The high average concentration of lead (0.49 mg kg−1 wet weight) in livers from Amazonian wild game is comparable to the levels of lead in industrialized countries and mining areas. Although hunting ammunition is probably the main source of lead in wildlife, oil-related pollution is also a major source of contaminant lead in areas in which oil is extracted. Owing to the extended use of lead shot in subsistence hunting worldwide and the ever-encroaching oil-extraction industry in tropical rainforests, these results uncover important health risks to tropical wildlife and local communities that rely on subsistence hunting.

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Fig. 1: Map of the study area, and location of the soil and oil-related samples.
Fig. 2: Lead isotopic ratios in the samples analysed in the study and from putative anthropogenic sources (that is, ammunition and oil–containing samples).
Fig. 3: Lead isotopic ratios in biological samples (livers) and putative lead sources.

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available in the Pangaea repository at


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We thank the local indigenous communities of the Pastaza, Corrientes, Yavari-Mirin and Pucacuro river basins for their assistance and cooperation; members of the indigenous federations of the Pastaza and Corrientes River basins (FEDIQUEP and FECONACOR, respectively) and the contribution of their environmental monitors, especially A. Sánchez, A. Guevara, E. Hualinga, J. J. Butuna, J. P. Gayas, M. Javier, M. Cariajano, R. Dahua Mucushua and T. Arahuanaza; the Pucacuro National Reserve, the Servicio Forestal Nacional y de Fauna Silvestre of Peru and CITES-Spain; P. Pérez-Peña, N. Fernandez-Gascon, I. Calm-Raurell, P. Rodríguez, L. Vela-Alegría, A. Ferrer-Mayol and G. Pocull-Bellés for their collaboration during the study; and M. Bowler, Á. Fernández-Llamazares, J. Garcia-Orellana, D. Papoulias and C. O’Callaghan-Gordo for discussions and comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Fundació Autònoma Solidària, IDEAWILD, the Earthwatch Institute, the Rufford Foundation (13621-1) and the Spanish research Ministry (Maria de Maeztu Award MDM-2015-0552). M.C.-S. benefited from the financial support of the AGAUR (FI-DGR 2014, 2015 and 2016), and M.O.-M. benefited from the financial support of the Marie Curie Actions (REA agreement 289374, ENTITLE), the Conflict and Cooperation over Natural Resources in Developing Countries program of The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation and the Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (RYC-2016-21366, funded by the European Social Fund/Investing in your Future).

Author information

M.O.-M., P.M. and A.R.-M. conceived the study. M.C.-S., P.M., M.O.-M. and A.R.-M. conducted the field work, analysed the data and wrote the manuscript.

Correspondence to Pedro Mayor or Martí Orta-Martínez.

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Cartró-Sabaté, M., Mayor, P., Orta-Martínez, M. et al. Anthropogenic lead in Amazonian wildlife. Nat Sustain 2, 702–709 (2019).

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