Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP peopleandplanet.net
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Drinking rainwater from banana leaf, Nigeria. (c) I. Uwanaka/UNEP
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biodiversity > features

Flying blind to the brink of extinction

by George McGavin

'Ultimately it is human population growth and increasing consumption that drives every aspect of environmental degradation' says Dr George McGavin of Oxford's Natural History Museum, in a beautifully illustrated new book Endangered: Wildlife on the Brink of Extinction now in the shops. In the final chapter, reproduced here by arrangement with the publishers, the author asks the question 'What next? ... more

Year of the Deserts gets under way
by John Rowley

In a long overdue recognition of the human tragedy involved in the degradation of the planet's drylands and the destruction of their biodiversity, the United Nations has launched the International Year of Deserts and Desertification 2006. It hopes to raise public awareness of the issue and protect the biological diversity of deserts as well as the traditional knowledge of those communities affected by desertification. ... more

Caviar trade suspended - but can the sturgeon survive?
The suspension of the international trade in caviar from wild sturgeon, announced today by the CITES secretariat in Geneva, has been widely welcomed by environmental groups. ... more

Birds warn of a planet in peril
by Janet Larsen

Once canaries were used to alert miners to the presence of poisonous gases deep below ground, now birds everywhere are signaling the earth's deteriorating environmental health. Worldwide, some 1,212 of 9,775 bird species - one out of every eight - are threatened with extinction. Destruction and degradation of habitat is the number one danger, threatening 87 per cent of these vulnerable birds. ... more

Close shave for Switzerland�s bearded vulture
by Mark Schulman

The bearded vulture, as with other scavenger species, gets a bad rap. Perpetually cast as the ugly villain of the alpine pastures, farmers and shepherds never took kindly to this bird and tried shooting it whenever they could. By the end of the 19th century the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) was hunted to extinction in the Alps. But a hundred years later, attitudes have changed and efforts are now being made to return this misunderstood bird species back to its rightful place in the fragile alpine ecosystem. ... more

Fresh hope for the orang-utan
Primate expert Simon Husson and his wife have spent the last ten years living in an Indonesian peat forest, in Borneo�s Sepangau National Park, only slightly larger than greater London, to study orang-utans, whose forest habitat is being destroyed at a rapid rate throughout Southeast Asia. They are part of a larger effort to rescue these remarkable �men of the forest� from extinction, as Jikkie Jonkman reports. ... more

Saving dolphins in the sacred Ganges
by Brian Thomson

The river dolphins of India's sacred Ganges River have been written into Hindu religious tracts dating back thousands of years. So revered, the Ganges River dolphin was one of the world's first protected species, given special status under the reign of Emperor Ashoka, one of India's most famous rulers in the third century BC. ... more

Philippines on verge of ecological disaster
by Henrylito D. Tacio

More than 100 years ago, the Philippines was rich in natural resources. Now, as the human population continues to grow (from 83 million today to a projected 133 million by 2050), it is not rich anymore. ... more

Can the new Europe meet the biodiversity challenge?
Ten new countries, with 75 million people, will join the enlarged European Union on May 1, 2004. They will bring with them much of the remaining natural wealth of Europe, but present the Union with an enormous challenge of conserving its rich biodiversity, in the face of rapid development. The following summary of these environmental assets, is based on research by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). ... more

The sixth great extinction: a status report
by Janet Larsen

Today, biologists are warning that Planet Earth is facing another mass extinction on par with the "great dying" of the dinosaurs and associated species 65 million years ago. This potential 'sixth mass extinction' is unique in that it will be caused largely by human activities, ranging from habitat destruction, human-induced climate change, pollution and land exploitation. While this may be the first time in history that a single species can precipitate a mass extinction event, it is also the first time in history that a single species can act to prevent it. Janet Larsen reports. ... more

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