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Two guards at a research station in a rainforest in French Guiana were murdered last month by illegal gold miners, reports Nature today (1 June). The killings led to the station's temporary closure and the evacuation of staff and equipment.

Pierre Charles-Dominique, the station's director, suspects the murders were intended to scare away the scientists and staff at the Nouragues nature reserve where the facility is located.

Two years ago miners ransacked the station and stole US$100,000 worth of equipment.

Among the station's projects is the Canopy Operation Permanent Access System (COPAS) — a large helium balloon and basket that allows researchers to move vertically and horizontally on a system of wires through the treetops.

The two guards, Domingo Ribamar da Silva and Andoe 'Capi' Saaki, were shot dead as the researchers were preparing to launch the project.

According to Nature, scientists were due to return to the site on 30 May with extra security provided by the police and military. They now plan to officially launch COPAS next week.

Link to full article in Nature