Some half a million ants were recruited by the conservation organisation World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to call for the protection of the Amazon rainforest, ahead of a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Brazil. Working in collaboration with Cologne zoo in the west of Germany, messages of support such as "Help", "Merkel Help", "Stand up" and "Save the Amazon" were laser-etched onto leaves which were then given to the leafcutter ants who carried them on their backs through their ant farm as a 'protest' for all to see.
The WWF said they hoped the unusual event would highlight the importance of preserving the world's biggest rainforest and that Merkel would use her upcoming trip to the South American country to lobby for its increased protection. "We hope that the German government will continue, as in the past, to support the preservation of the Amazon rainforest [in Brazil]," Director for Africa and South America at WWF Germany, Philipp Goeltenboth, said.
Merkel is set to travel to Brasilia on 19 August for a two-day visit with a delegation from 11 government departments and large German companies. For the leafcutter ants, the peaceful demonstration was also intended as a personal one, as Goeltenboth explained.
WWF says that during the last half century, the Amazon has lost at least 17% of its forest cover.
"The ants are calling for the continued protection of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, their home. That's where all their relatives are and there are now a lot of efforts to have many of these protected areas reduced or even completely disestablished which would lead to millions of hectares of primary rainforest being destroyed," he said.