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This page was updated on: 01/13/10




Biodiversity and Wildlife Media Reports Archives: 2010; 2009; 2008; 2007; 2006; 2005; 2003; 2002





Ten percent of all bird species are set to disappear by the end of this century, according to a study by researchers at Stanford University. Authored by a research team in the Stanford Center for Conservation Biology and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study concludes that up to 14% of all bird species may be extinct, while one out of four species could be critically endangered or extinct in the wild. The research team warns that this is likely to have a negative impact on forest ecosystems and agricultural biodiversity worldwide, including the decline of important ecosystem processes, such as decomposition, pollination and seed dispersal.


The research team analyzed 9,787 living and 129 extinct species, resulting in one of the most comprehensive databases of a class of organisms ever compiled. They then applied three future scenarios in a computer programme designed to forecast population changes.


"Our projections indicate that, by 2100, up to 14 percent of all bird species may be extinct and that as many as one out of four may be functionally extinct – that is, critically endangered or extinct in the wild," said Çagan Sekercioglu, who headed the research team. Island birds, birds with highly specialized diets and birds which are scavengers and insectivores were identified as the birds at greatest risk.


Links to further information

Ecosystems Consequences of Bird Declines, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, December 2004

Ten Percent of Bird Species to Disappear, Reuters News Service, 14 December 2004





The debate over genetically-modified (GM) crops has continued in recent weeks with the release of a report on GM maize in Mexico, approval of GM maize in Europe, and a decision to allow GM soy in Brazil.


The report on Maize and Biodiversity: the Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico, prepared by the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, has confirmed that transgenes from GM maize imported into Mexico from the US have entered local varieties, are likely to spread, and will be very difficult to remove. It recommends a moratorium on commercial planting of transgenic maize, until adequate research and risk/benefit assessments on gene flow are conducted and more information is made available to Mexican farmers.


The report was a response to a petition by 21 indigenous communities of Oaxaca and three Mexican environmental groups urging an analysis of the impacts of transgenic introgression into landraces of maize in Mexico, a center of origin and diversity for maize. Responding to the report, the Canadian government said it found the key findings to be balanced and consistent with their scientific understanding, regulatory approach and accepted international standards. However, it noted that some of the report's recommendations did not appear to be supported by the scientific evidence, particularly regarding gene flow. The US sharply criticized the report as "fundamentally flawed," for ignoring science, failing to consider the costs and benefits of the recommended measures and failing to evaluate the economic benefits for Mexican farmers as a result of the use of biotechnology.


In related news Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva recently issued an executive order allowing Brazilian farmers to legally plant GM soy until January 2006. The order was necessary to fill a legal gap, as the draft biosafety bill, which permits the planting of GM crops, has been approved by the Senate but still requires the approval of the lower house of the Brazilian parliament.


Meanwhile in Europe, the European Commission decided in late October to approve the GM maize NK-603, developed by Monsanto and modified to resist the company's herbicide Roundup. The product has been approved for the European market and human consumption, but not for cultivation. More recently, an EU expert committee meeting held on 29 November failed to reach a decision on whether to apply legal pressure over a decision by five EU member States to lift their national bans on authorized GM products.


Links to further information

CEC report on maize in Mexico, November 2004

US statement on the report, 8 November 2004

Agencia Estado Brazil, 15 October 2004

SciDev.Net news article, 13 October 2004

EC press release, 26 October 2004

Euractiv News, 30 November 2004





The Global Crop Diversity Trust, an initiative aimed at conserving plant genetic resources vital for food security, entered into force on 21 October 2004. The goal of the Trust is to provide a secure and sustainable source of funding for the world's most important crop diversity collections. There are more than 1,400 crop diversity collections around the world. These collections are the best sources of the raw material farmers and breeders need to develop new crop varieties, at a time of unprecedented loss of plant diversity and extreme hunger and poverty in many parts of the world.


Sweden's decision to join the initiative gave the Trust the support it needed to enter into force. Other signatories include Cape Verde, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jordan, Mali, Morocco, Samoa, Syria, Tonga and Togo. Sweden has pledged about US$7 million to the Trust, joining other donors, including Ethiopia, which recently pledged US$50,000, in spite of being one of the 10 poorest countries in the world.


"Ethiopia is very rich in agricultural biodiversity but extremely poor in financial resources," said Dr. Tewolde, Director General of the Ethiopia's Environmental Protection Authority and a member of the Trust's Interim Panel of Eminent Experts. "The future for Ethiopians, along with the rest of humanity, cannot be secure unless the future of agriculture is secured. Therefore, we welcome the opportunity to help save the world's crop diversity collections."


The framework of the Trust is provided by the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, the Trust being one of the elements of the funding strategy of the Treaty. To date, the Trust has raised about US$51 million, with another $60 million under discussion.


"FAO welcomes the establishment of the Global Crop Diversity Trust so soon after the coming into force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture," said Louise Fresco, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Agriculture Department. "The Trust will help ensure that one of the key objectives of the Treaty, the safe conservation of crop diversity, becomes a reality."


Links to further information

FAO Press Release, 21 October 2004

General information on the Trust



Amphibian species are declining at an unprecedented rate, experiencing tens of thousands of years worth of extinctions in this last century, finds the most comprehensive study to date. A collaborative effort by scientists from Conservational International, IUCN and NatureServe representing the collective efforts of over 500 scientists from more than 60 countries, the Global Amphibian Assessment examined the distribution and conservation status of all 5,743 known amphibian species. Thirty-two percent of these species are already considered threatened with extinction. With highly permeable skin, amphibians are sensitive to environmental changes and serve as a good natural indicator of environmental health. The cause of the dramatic decline is in part due to chytridiomycosis, a highly infectious disease affecting amphibians that is being increasingly attributed to droughts linked to climate change. Other causes of the decline are habitat destruction, air and water pollution and consumer demand. The results of the Assessment are presented on the initiative's website, but will also be published in a forthcoming issue of Science. A framework is being established to enable an ongoing process for implementing long-term monitoring of amphibians around the world, with a new IUCN Global Amphibian Specialist Group formed to bolster this effort.


Links to further information

Global Amphibian Assessment website

IUCN press release, 14 October 2004



"Biodiversity for Food Security" was the theme of this year's World Food Day, celebrated on 16 October. The theme aims to highlight biodiversity's role in ensuring that people have sustainable access to sufficient diversified and nutritious food.


Noting that about three-quarters of the genetic diversity of agricultural crops have been lost over the last century, and that food supply has become more vulnerable, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf highlighted the entry into force of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the establishment of a Global Crop Diversity Trust to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to preserve agricultural biodiversity.


The initiative was welcome by CBD Executive Secretary Hamdallah Zedan, who highlighted the role of biodiversity in reaching the Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by half by 2015. He recalled that CBD COP-7 urged consideration of a cross-cutting initiative on biodiversity for food and nutrition, noting the linkage between biodiversity, food and nutrition and the need to enhance sustainable use of biodiversity to combat hunger and malnutrition.


Links to further information

World Food Day website

FAO Press Release, 11 October 2004

Message of the FAO Director-General

Statement by the CBD Secretariat



In its 111th session, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) unanimously adopted a resolution affirming the role of parliaments in preserving biological diversity. The resolution calls on States to: ratify the CBD and the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and take more effective action towards implementation; implement the provisions for a programme of work on protected areas, particularly in marine ecosystems; coordinate efforts to reduce biodiversity loss on the high seas; commit themselves to the establishment of an international regime on access and benefit-sharing; and increase public awareness of biodiversity conservation.


Links to further information

CBD News Release

IPU Press Release, 1 October 2004

The text of the resolution



US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) researchers have found that a GM bentgrass, modified to resist the herbicide Roundup, can pollinate test plants up to 21 kilometers and wild grass up to 14 kilometers downwind. The results are likely to heighten concerns about the unintentional spread of genes from GM crops. The findings suggest that previous studies of the environmental impact of GM plants have been too small to capture the full spread of GM genes, as they usually involved much smaller test farms. Critics of the GM grass, developed by Monsanto and Scotts for use on golf courses, point that it could spread to areas where it is not wanted or transfer its herbicide resistance to weeds. The US Department of Agriculture noted that more conclusive research is needed, and will produce an environmental impact assessment before reaching a decision on its commercialization.


Both in Thailand and in Hawaii, papaya seeds thought to be traditional were found to contain genetic material from GM varieties.


In Thailand, where a three years ban on GMOs still holds, Agriculture Minister Somsak Thepsuthin admitted that GM papaya trees grown from seeds distributed by the government's Khon Kaen experimental research station have been found on eight farms. The findings led the government to destroy its research farm, impose a control zone to stop the GM contamination, and halt open field tests.


In Hawaii, independent laboratory testing found that papayas from organic farms and conventional seeds sold by the University of Hawaii contained GM material. Organic farmers, consumers and backyard growers now demand liability protection, a plan for cleaning up the papaya contamination and prevention of contamination of other Hawaiian commodity crops. Citing the Percy Schmeiser case, Toi Lahti, an organic farmer, also noted that "this opens farmers to oppressive lawsuits based on claims of patent infringement." Other papaya farmers raised concerns about impacts on export markets.


In Europe, for the first time since the de facto moratorium ended on 19 May 2004, the European Commission decided to approve 17 GM maize varieties for cultivation in the EU. The decision, which concerns the approval of 17 different strains of Monsanto's 810 maize, was criticized by environmentalists. At the same time, the Commission postponed discussion on the controversial issue of co-existence of traditional and GM crops. In a related development, the Assembly of European Regions and Friends of the Earth Europe have recently launched a joint long-term campaign, aiming to protect traditional crops from GM contamination. Among other things, the campaign will lobby for the establishment of a legal framework on the co-existence of traditional and GM crops and the legal recognition of GM-free zones and regions in Europe. The Assembly of European Regions currently has 250 member regions from 30 European countries and 12 interregional organizations.


Links to further information

US EPA website

Lidia Watrud et al, "Evidence for landscape-level, pollen-mediated gene flow from genetically modified creeping bentgrass with CP4 EPSPS as a marker," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 5 October 2004, vol. 101, no. 40, 14533-14538

GM Pollen Spreads Much Farther Than Previously Thought, Scientific American, 21 September 2004

Thailand: Government Admission: GM papaya confirmed in NE, The Nation, 14 September 2004

Genetic traits spread to non-engineered papayas in Hawaii, Environment News Service, 10 September 2004

Seventeen GM varieties approved but coexistence decision postponed, EurActiv News, 9 September 2004

Campaign for GM free zones and regions gathers force, Indymedia UK, 14 September 2004



Proposals to amend the Appendices are often the highlight of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES). The current 13th CITES COP, which is taking place in Bangkok, will consider proposals on such species as the humphead wrasse, great white shark, irrawaddy dolphin, ramin and yew trees, Southern white rhinoceros, yellow-crested cockatoo, minke whale and the African lion and elephant. This media story spotlights the situation concerning elephants.


The volume of illegal ivory trade has increased since 1995, according to the latest data from the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS). More than 4,000 elephants are killed every year, while China, Thailand, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Nigeria are listed as the world's most implicated countries in illegal ivory trade. Domestic markets and poor law enforcement are said to drive the poaching of animals in Africa and Asia. Furthermore, a TRAFFIC investigation found a thriving ivory market in the US – both legal and illegal. TRAFFIC found that the US has the highest rate of ivory seizures in the world, with much of the ivory brought into the country by individual consumers. "This indicates that law enforcement is doing a good job … but it also means Americans are ignoring the law and continuing to fuel demand for ivory …" said Simon Habel, director of TRAFFIC North America. The growth of online commerce has also created a new channel for ivory trade for Americans.


In southern Africa, conservationists and government authorities are looking into solutions to address the overpopulation of elephants in national parks, resulting in destruction of woodlands. While South Africa is considering culling its herds, with contraception and translocation as other possible solutions, the Conservation Ecology Research Unit at the University of Pretoria proposed "Megaparks for Metapopulations," a theory involving expanding transnational parks, drying up water holes and merging herds with high and low reproduction rates, to allow them reduce more naturally.


The African lion's uplisting in CITES Appendix I, as proposed by Kenya, is also expected to create some degree of controversy. Kenya argues the continent's lions are pushed close to extinction, due to habitat destruction, the loss of prey and unsustainable trophy hunting. While it is doubtful whether trophy hunting can be considered to be international trade and therefore fall within the CITES' scope, southern African States are expected to oppose the Kenyan proposal.


Meanwhile Zimbabwean officials have been accused of falsifying the size of the country's elephant population. The Zimbabwean Conservation Taskforce says the country's elephant population has fallen to 60,000, while official numbers count the population at 100,000. Conservationists denounce indiscriminate shooting of elephants in national parks, and call for a comprehensive survey of the country's elephant population under CITES supervision.


Furthermore, law enforcement remains a problem in Africa. While the situation seems to be better in Asia, wildlife smuggling is still common. According to WildAid-Thailand, Thailand in particular has become a networking center for trafficking wildlife from the region into China and Northern Asia. In that regard, conservationists welcomed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's opening speech at CITES COP-13 and his proposal to establish a new Southeast Asian law enforcement network to combat illegal wildlife trade.


Links to further information

Daily coverage of CITES COP-13 by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin

Monitoring of Illegal Hunting in Elephant Range States, CoP13 Doc. 29.3

CoP13 Prop. 6, proposal from Kenya to transfer Panthera Leo from Appendix II to Appendix ITRAFFIC Press Release, 23 September 2004

TRAFFIC North America, Tackling the ivories: the status of the US trade in elephant and hippo ivory

Independent, 15 September 2004

Environment News Service, 16 September 2004

Reuters News Service, 29 September 2004

Environment News Service, 24 September 2004

BBC News, 2 October 2004

Reuters News Service, 22 September 2004

WildAid-Thailand Press Release, 13 May 2004

Boston Globe, 20 September 2004

Julienne du Toit, A crush of giants





Ecuador's Yasuni National Park, one of the world's most megadiverse regions, is under threat due to a licence granted to the Brazilian national oil company, Petrobras, to undertake oil development activities.


The license allows Petrobras to build a new road, a pipeline, two drilling platforms and a processing plant in Yasuni National Park. Concerns center on the new road, which would cut through large parts of undisturbed rainforest, providing an easy route for loggers, farmers and hunters to enter the park. The license has generated opposition from environmental and scientists' groups, who have decided to take judicial action requesting an injunction of the license. The Indigenous Nationalities Confederation of Ecuador demanded its cancellation, while the Indigenous Nationalities Confederation of the Ecuadorian Amazonia declared resistance to all plans for petroleum exploitation in the region.


Yasuni National Park shelters a wide-ranging diversity of wildlife and tree species, and was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989.  


Links to further information

Amazonia News Release, 22 September 2004

Environment News Service, 23 September 2004



The upcoming 13th Conference of the Parties (COP-13) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will address the protection of commercially valuable species, in addition to charismatic mammals, such as the African elephant and the minke whale. Delegates are expected to consider proposals on marine and plant species of high trade value, including the humphead wrasse, the great white shark, and a number of medicinal plants. According to a IUCN/TRAFFIC/WWF briefing document, the humphead wrasse is naturally rare and extremely vulnerable to overexploitation. Demand for this large coral reef fish from the Indian and Pacific oceans is already high and illegal trade is difficult to control. Another important item on the CITES agenda is a Chinese-American proposal to control trade in the Asian yew tree, whose leaves are used to make paclitaxel, a key ingredient for cancer drugs.


On other CITES news, the CITES Secretariat has recently published the 2004 export quotas for three Black Sea countries that jointly manage the sturgeon stocks that spawn in the Danube River. The quotas allow Romania to export 3,410 kilos of caviar, Bulgaria 1,720 kilos and Serbia and Montenegro 700 kilos. These countries also plan to export a combined total of 23,000 kilos of sturgeon meat. CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers noted that "while several press stories in recent days erroneously stated that CITES has placed a ban on caviar, these first new quotas for 2004 demonstrate that the process in place for establishing quotas is indeed working." The CITES Secretariat will publish annual quotas for other sturgeon range States after receiving the required information from the world's other shared sturgeon basins, concerning common management plans, annual stock assessments and agreed catch quotas.


On related news, a study recently published in Science journal, found that affiliated species are at risk when host species of flora or fauna are endangered. The study, produced by the National University of Singapore and the Universities of Tennessee, US, and Alberta, Canada, concluded that the list of endangered species is much larger and more serious than originally thought. The research team compiled a list of 12,200 plants and animals currently listed as threatened or endangered, and then looked at other organisms that are affiliated with the threatened host. They found that at least 200 affiliate species have already been lost through co-extinction and that a further 6,300 should be classified as "co-endangered."

Finally, Botswana, which has the largest elephant population in Africa, will donate 500 elephants to Mozambique, in an effort to rehabilitate the Gorongosa National Park. Wildlife in Gorongosa suffered a massive decline in the 1980s due to poaching during Mozambique's civil war. Mozambique is now looking into funding to move the animals into the country.


Links to further information

CITES Press Release, 7 September 2004

The IUCN/TRAFFIC/WWF briefing document on the humphead wrasse listing proposal

Reuters News Service, 10 September 2004

CITES Press Release, 7 September 2004

CITES Press Statement, 3 September 2004

University of Alberta Press Release, 9 September 2004

Reuters News Service, 13 September 2004

Koh et al, "Species Co-extinctions and the Biodiversity Crisis" Science 2004, 305: 1632-1634

Reuters News Service, 6 September 2004



Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia have informally circulated a proposal to establish a "development agenda" at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The proposal is expected to be presented at the 31st session of the WIPO General Assembly, to be held from 27 September to 5 October 2004.


The proposal calls for a radical change in WIPO's mandate and operations to address the needs of developing countries. It calls on WIPO to integrate the UN development agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals, stresses that intellectual property enforcement should be approached in the context of broader societal interests and development-related concerns, and highlights countries' rights to implement their international obligations in accordance with their own legal systems. Furthermore, the proposal highlights concerns regarding the negotiations on the Substantive Patent Law Treaty. It concludes that "a vision that promotes the absolute benefits of intellectual property protection without acknowledging public policy concerns undermines the very credibility of the IP system. Integrating the development dimension into the IP system and WIPO's activities, on the other hand, will strengthen the credibility of the IP system and encourage its wider acceptance as an important tool for the promotion of innovation, creativity and development."


Links to further information

ICTSD reporting, 8 September 2004

The Proposal on Establishing a "Development Agenda" for WIPO





The location of GM pharmaceutical crop field trials in the state of Hawaii does not constitute confidential business information and needs to be made public, a US court ruled on 4 August. The so-called biopharm crops have been genetically modified to produce non-food items, such as drugs or industrial chemicals.


The plaintiff, Center for Food Safety, represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice, sought the locations of the field trials to force the USDA to conduct environmental impact assessments before allowing open air trials. Earthjustice added that none of these crops has been approved for consumption or for release into the environment. The government and industry argued that public disclosure could lead to crop vandalism and corporate espionage of trade secrets. Under the court order, the locations of the experimental fields of four companies will be disclosed to Earthjustice, which must keep the information confidential for at least 90 days.


Hawaii has more than 4,000 field test sites for GM crops, more than anywhere else in the world. This is the first time that locations of GM tests in the US will be revealed to a third party.


Links to further information

Honolulu Advertiser, 5 August 2004


A month ahead of the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the European Commission has adopted a proposal on tightening trade rules regarding the great white shark, the Napoleon fish and timber from the rainforest tree ramin. The EU is also opposed to commercial trade in minke whales, as well as to a resumption of ivory trade, unless it is clear that it will not lead to increased poaching. However, the proposal adds that "some southern African countries have been very successful in protecting their elephant populations. The need to prevent any ivory from entering the market generates stockpiles that impose a big security burden on these countries." The proposal will be reviewed by the Council of Ministers before CITES COP-13, which is scheduled for 2-14 October in Bangkok.


On ramin, a tropical hardwood timber sourced mainly from Southeast Asia, a report released by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, examines the situation in its key trading countries, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, and stresses the importance of trilateral collaboration to strengthen trade controls. The report "Framing the Picture: An Assessment of Ramin Trade in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore," shows that the species' habitat is critically threatened due to legal and illegal trade. Although ramin is currently listed in CITES Appendix III, enforcement is weak and Indonesia has proposed uplisting it to Appendix II at CITES COP-13, which would provide for additional controls and support ongoing enforcement efforts.


On related news, customs officers in southern China have seized more than 8,000 horns of endangered antelopes smuggled in for use in traditional medicine. Some of the horns are believed to belong to the Saiga antelope, a breed that went nearly extinct in China in the 1940s. In Sumatra, five members of an illegal wildlife trade network were convicted for poaching and illegal trade in the endangered Sumatran tiger. They were sentenced to a total of six years in prison and to fines of US$7,750.


Links to further information

European Commission Press Release, 30 July 2004

The proposals for amendments of CITES Appendices I and II

TRAFFIC Press Release, 19 August 2004

The TRAFFIC report ""Framing the Picture: An Assessment of Ramin Trade in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore"

Reuters News Service, 25 August 2004

CITES Press Release, 9 August 2004



The Brazilian government has launched a US$1 million project to create a single network of national biodiversity databases through gathering currently dispersed information and establishing new specimen collection centers. The project aims to give Brazil control over its own biodiversity and to secure sharing of benefits that arise from its commercial use. Most of the information will be available to the public. However, data with commercial value will be available to companies under restrictive or paid conditions. The project has received criticism from states whose organizations were excluded from the process.


On related news, Brazil' Amazonas State Government Office for the Environment and Sustainable Development and WWF-Brazil have signed a technical cooperation agreement through which WWF will invest approximately US$1 million over the next three years, to strengthen the area's protected areas system. The State of Amazonas covers 1.5 million km2 and includes 13 different ecoregions of the Amazon biome. The funds will finance activities related to the establishment and management of state protected areas, including studies to define the areas, public consultations aiming to protected area establishment, management plans, environmental education and capacity-building activities, and conflict identification and management.


Links to further information

SciDev.Net release, 6 August 2004

WWF Press Release, 24 August 2004



The 2004 Bay and Paul Foundations Biodiversity Leadership Awards, of a total value of US$900,000, were awarded to eight scientists and environmental advocates who find, catalog and defend biodiversity in Argentina, Costa Rica, Ethiopia, the Philippines, New Caledonia, Madagascar and the US.


Links to further information

The Bay and Paul Foundations Biodiversity Leadership Awards


JULY 2004



Frozen Ark – the first tissue bank aiming to preserve genetic material from endangered species around the world has been established in the United Kingdom. Frozen genetic material will be stored to be used in the future for research and possibly conservation initiatives.


The project will collect and freeze DNA samples from all kinds of species. Priority will be given to species most in danger of extinction, with the first critically endangered animals to enter the "Frozen Ark" being the Yellow seahorse, Scimitar horned oryx, Socorro dove and Polynesian tree snails. The project is supported by the Natural History Museum, the Zoological Society of London and the Institute of Genetics at the University of Nottingham.


"For future biologists and conservationists and for the animals they seek to protect, this global network will be of immeasurable value," said Professor Phil Rainbow, Keeper of Zoology at the Natural History Museum.


Links to further information

Frozen Ark project news release, 27 July 2004

UN Wire, 27 July 2004



South Africa, Botswana and Namibia have proposed including the Hoodia cactus in Annex II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in an effort to limit and control its trade ahead of the upcoming meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties. The cactus has been used by San Bushmen for its appetite-suppressing qualities and a commercial drug is under development.


On other CITES-related news, IUCN's Wildlife Trade Programme and TRAFFIC have completed technical reviews of all the listing proposals submitted for COP-13. Available to assist Parties in formulating their positions by providing them with the most up-to-date scientific information.


Meanwhile, a senior Thai wildlife official was transferred out of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry as his role in the export of 100 tigers to China two years ago is being investigated.


Links to further information

Reuters News Service, 16 July 2004

Proposals for CITES listings at COP-13

IUCN/TRAFFIC review of CITES proposals

UN Wire, 21 July 2004



Over 30 civil society stakeholders involved in agricultural issues have sent an open letter in support of FAO's recently released report on "Agricultural Biotechnology: Meeting the needs of the poor?" The letter applauds FAO "for moving the discussion about agricultural biotechnology away from polarizing political rhetoric and either/or debates toward how best to utilize and apply agricultural biotechnology to the needs of the world's poor and undernourished. It commends FAO for "weighing in on this important yet still contentious area and offering reasoned optimism about the role that agricultural biotechnology should play in meeting the needs of the poor and humanity of the 21st century."


This letter, which is signed primarily by free market institutions and biotech stakeholder NGOs, comes a month after another open letter that was signed by 650 civil society organizations and 800 individuals that criticized the FAO report for supporting the biotechnology industry and being biased against the poor, the environment and food production.


Links to further information, 16 July 2004

Open NGO letter to FAO, 16 June 2004



A five-year research project involving 11 EU countries and South Africa, funded by the EU, will explore the use of GM plants in disease treatment. Researchers aim to perfect techniques for the production of antibodies and vaccines that can be used to prevent or treat human diseases, including AIDS, diabetes, rabies and tuberculosis; diseases that mostly affect people in developing countries.


Highlighting the project's potential contributions, the Project's Scientific and Administrative Coordinators, Professor Julian Ma, St. Georges Hospital, London, UK, and Professor Rainer Fischer, Fraunhofer IME, Aachen, Germany, note that "While the production of pharmaceuticals in genetically modified mammalian cells and microbes is well-established and documented, there are no precedents for the same production process in plants ... We aim to establish the procedures and materials for the complete production pipeline, working closely with European regulatory agencies to ensure safety and compliance at all stages."


Environmentalists caution that the project could have unforeseen consequences. Clare Oxborrow, Friends of the Earth, called for a clear set of criteria to ensure that human health and the environment are protected.


Links to further information

Pharma-Planta Consortium news release, 12 July 2004

UN Wire, 13 July 2004

BBC News, 12 July 2004



In light of increasing recognition of the role of biodiversity in meeting international development goals and in view of the need to better manage global biodiversity resources and meet the 2010 target of significantly educing the rate of biodiversity loss, UNEP is working with key stakeholders to expand its biodiversity activities and develop its overall biodiversity strategy. To this end, UNEP has initiated, in cooperation with the UK government, WCMC 2000 (a charitable organization responsible for UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre's non-UNEP staff and infrastructure) and other relevant organizations, a series of actions that seek to strengthen both UNEP and UNEP-WCMC. These actions include the establishment of a team to review UNEP-WCMC's overall strategy and strengthen the agreements between UNEP and WCMC 2000, and the enhancement of the partnership among the UK government, WCMC 2000 and UNEP to guide the WCMC's programme of work and ensure its financial viability.


Current UNEP-WCMC Director Mark Collins will be transferred to UNEP headquarters in Nairobi to guide the development of UNEP's overall biodiversity strategy and a new UNEP-WCMC Director will be recruited. Meanwhile Kaveh Zahedi, UNEP DEWA's Regional Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean, will act as Officer in Charge and serve as the Centre's interim director.


A new biodiversity strategy for UNEP and UNEP-WCMC developed in consultation with key stakeholders is expected to be published in early 2005.


Links to further information

UNEP-WCMC website



A call for a full ban on ivory trade was the outcome of a meeting between representatives from 12 African Francophone countries, which took place in Paris, France from 28-29 June 2004. The meeting was organized by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and the National Society for the Protection of Nature (SNPN) and drew together representatives from Congo, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Niger, Mali, Togo, Cote d' Ivoire, Senegal and Guinea. The meeting was held in preparation for the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) scheduled for October 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand.


Participants noted that the recent easing of restrictions for the elephant populations in Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa could prove to be devastating for the African elephant. Many are also concerned that a re-opening of the ivory trade could lead to more poaching and to more deadly clashes between poachers and national park guards.


In related news, the Spanish police have seized 2.9 tonnes of poached African ivory in Madrid, estimated to have caused the death of 400 elephants.


Links to further information

IFAW Press Release, 8 July 2004

Reuters News Service, 5 July 2004

UN Wire, 30 June 2004

Natural Resources Defense Council Press Release, 28 June 2004


JUNE 2004



The largest population of Mediterranean loggerhead turtles, nesting on the Greek island of Zakynthos, will be lost unless the Government of Greece resumes the funding it withdrew months ago and stops uncontrolled tourism, warns conservation group WWF.


Staff at the National Marine Park of Zakynthos stopped work in May after going unpaid for nine months. The Park's management authority has ceased all operations due to lack of funds and government support. This has left volunteers in a battle with tourism operators, in the middle of the tourist season and at a time when loggerhead females come ashore to nest.


According to WWF, there are no measures in place to stop illegal development and the authorities have failed to demolish the 13 illegal buildings on one of the five protected beaches. The situation is expected to result in the destruction of the nesting area. "Although marine turtles can play an important role in improving the economic well-being of coastal communities through well-managed ecotourism, this kind of uncontrolled tourism must be stopped," said Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF's Global Species Programme. "It is not acceptable that beaches once protected for turtles are now the domain of sunbathers, swimmers and ice cream vendors." 


Links to further information

WWF Press Release, 30 June 2004

Environment News Network, 1 July 2004



A project aimed at boosting the conservation of wild relatives of crops has been launched. Jointly developed by the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI) and UNEP/GEF, the project brings together the biologically rich countries of Armenia, Bolivia, Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan, with a number of international agencies, with the aim of improving key features of traditional crops, such as their economic and nutritional value and their ability to naturally fight disease. As part of the project, the conservation actions needed in the above countries will be identified, and a tested information access and management system with worldwide application will be developed.


Entitled "In Situ Conservation of Crop Wild Relatives through Enhanced Management and Field Application," the project comes at a time of increasing concern over the loss of precious genetic resources. Crop wild relatives are important both for improving agricultural production and for maintaining sustainable agroecosystems. The genes that come from crop wild relatives make a direct contribution to increased production, food quality and poverty alleviation.


Links to further information

IPGRI/UNEP Press Release, 28 June 2004

Project webpage



Five new natural sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List at a recent session of UNESCO's World Heritage Committee held in Suzhou, China. The new sites are Greenland's Ilulissat Icefjurd, Indonesia's Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, the Russian Federation's Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve, Saint Lucia's Pitons Management Area, and South Africa's Cape Floral Region Protected Areas. The list now numbers 788 sites, including 611 cultural, 154 natural and 23 mixed sites located in 134 countries that are State Parties to the Convention.


UNESCO's World Heritage mission is to, among others, encourage countries to sign the 1972 Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in order to ensure the protection of their natural and cultural heritage, and encourage Parties to the Convention to nominate properties within their national territory for inclusion in the World Heritage List. There are currently 178 Parties to the Convention.


Links to further information

UNESCO news release

UN Wire, 24 June 2004

UN Wire, 30 June 2004



The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture entered into force on 29 June 2004, ninety days after the deposit of its 40th ratification. Fifty-five countries have now ratified the treaty, a legally binding instrument that targets the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and equitable benefit-sharing for sustainable agriculture and food security. The Treaty establishes a multilateral system for facilitated access to a specified list of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, balanced by benefit-sharing in the areas of information exchange, technology transfer, capacity building and commercial development. It contains sections on general provisions, farmers' rights, supporting components, and financial and institutional provisions, and recognizes the need for close links with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The list of crops in Annex I, which defines the Treaty's scope, includes 35 crop genera and 29 forage species.


The Treaty's negotiations spanned seven years and were based on the revision of the non-binding International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to be in harmony with the CBD. The negotiations were held under the auspices of the FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which reviews and advises the FAO on policy, programmes and activities related to the conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the utilization of genetic resources of relevance to food and agriculture.


Links to further information

FAO newsroom, 29 June 2004



Chinese officials announced that the wild panda population, currently at a count of 1,590, has increased by over 40 percent, as a result of successful conservation practices, and research on breeding, feeding and disease prevention. The results come from a four year study of pandas and their habitat, conducted jointly by the State Forestry Administration of China and WWF. A previous survey, carried out between 1985 and 1988 by Chinese officials and WWF, had found between 1,000 and 1,100 pandas living in the wild.


Zhuo Rongsheng of the Chinese administration said, "We can say with full confidence that we have achieved great success in the conservation of the giant panda. However, we cannot say that the giant panda is no longer endangered." WWF, however, notes that the population could not have increased so rapidly in light of continued poaching and deforestation, and says the increase may be due to better tracking and reporting methods.


Meanwhile, the Australian Koala Foundation asked the Australian government to declare the koala a vulnerable species, after a survey found that the majority of koala habitats have been seriously damaged. The group warned that koalas could disappear in 15 years, due to urbanization and destruction of eucalyptus trees – their only source of food .


Links to further information

WWF press release, 10 June 2004

Australia Koala Foundation

Reuters News Service, 18 June 2004



The BBVA Foundation, based in Spain, has announced that it will award five prizes, worth €1,000,000 in total for work on biodiversity conservation. Two awards will be given to representatives of the Spanish and Latin American scientific communities for research work on conservation biology, another two will be awarded to non-profit organizations working on biodiversity conservation projects in Spain and Latin America, and one award will be presented to Spanish scientists and professionals for knowledge dissemination and sensitization in biodiversity conservation. Entries to each category must be nominated and/or endorsed by experts and institutions. Nominations should reach BBVA by 30 July 2004.


Links to further information

BBVA Foundation Awards for Biodiversity Conservation, May 2004

Sci.Dev.Net, 17 June 2004



The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) celebrated its 25 Anniversary on 23 June 2004. On this occasion, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan underlined that migratory species "are essential for healthy ecosystems, contributing to their structure and function and connecting one to another .. [and that] they are the basis of activities that create jobs and support local and global economies." Highlighting the crucial role that CMS has played in protecting and preserving an invaluable natural heritage for future generations, he called on "all Governments that have not yet done so, to accede to the CMS and its agreements, so that all countries and peoples are engaged in this effort."


As part of the silver anniversary celebrations, a workshop was held from 22-23 June, in Berlin, Germany, under the theme "Migratory Species linking Ecosystems and Disciplines," during which participants discussed cooperation with other organizations and initiatives, and considered how conservation goals and policies could be harmonized with best practice schemes. The Museum Koenig in Bonn also organized a series of events focusing on threats to and protection of migratory species of wild animals from 22-26 June.


The CMS aims to conserve and manage avian, marine and terrestrial migratory species throughout their range.


Links to further information

CMS news, 23 June 2004



South Africa officially adopted its new Biodiversity Act on 31 May. The Act regulates the sharing of benefits derived from biodiversity with local communities, protects traditional knowledge and regulates bioprospecting. It gives legal powers to plan and protect different bio-regions, sets up a system to protect the country's rare and endangered species and takes steps to control alien invasive vegetation. It also adds important controls to the system of regulating GMOs and gives the Environment Minister the power to require a full environmental impact assessment for any GMO.


Links to further information

South Africa Environment Ministry press release, 2 June 2004


MAY 2004



On 25 May 2004, European stakeholders, including the European Commission, the Irish Presidency of the EU and IUCN, launched the Countdown 2010 campaign to halt the loss of biodiversity in Europe. The initiative aims to draw public attention and promote action to fulfill the international commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity by 2010.


IUCN President Yolanda Kakabadse outlined six key steps that the EU can undertake to reach the 2010 target: encourage the private sector to contribute to biodiversity conservation; integrate biodiversity issues into EU development cooperation; support research on biodiversity; work on implementing the multilateral environmental agreements; integrate biodiversity into other sectors; and mobilize civil society.


The launch was hosted by the EU and the EC during a three-day stakeholders' conference on "Biodiversity and the EU: sustaining life, sustaining livelihoods."


Links to further information

IUCN Press Release, 25 May 2004

The Countdown 2010 campaign



Friends of the Earth gathered over 100,000 people and 544 organizations representing 48 million people to sign a petition to the WTO. Delivered on 25 May 2004, the petition is part of the Friends of the Earth's global "Bite-back" campaign against the complaint filed at the WTO by the US, Argentina and Canada against the EU's de facto moratorium on GMOs. Among other things signatories ask that the WTO not undermine the sovereign right of any country to protect its citizens and the environment from GMOs.


Links to further information

Friends of the Earth International Press Release 25 May 2004



Marine turtle-related tourism brings in almost three times as much money as the sale of turtle products such as meat, leather and eggs, according to a study prepared by WWF on the economic aspects of marine turtle use and conservation.


The study shows that the worldwide decline in sea turtle population jeopardizes coastal economies in developing countries. It is the first to assess the economic value of sea turtles on a global scale, comparing the revenue generated from killing turtles or collecting their eggs with income generated from tourism at a total of 18 sites in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. It confirmed that the average annual income at sites where sea turtles are a tourist attraction was nearly three times higher than at locations where turtles were sold for their meat, eggs and shells.


In related news, six men were found guilty of poaching sea turtles in the Seychelles and sentenced to two years in jail, in police efforts to stop illegal trade in turtle meat.


Links to further information

WWF News Release, 25 May 2004

WWF's "Sea turtles: worth more alive than dead" report

UN Wire, 25 May 2004

Reuters News Service, 21 May 2004



On 19 May, the European Commission approved the sale of a GM sweetcorn, putting an end to the de facto moratorium on GM products that has been in place in the EU since 1998. The product, which was developed by Syngenta, is known as Bt-11 and will be sold as a canned product.


According to David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, "GM sweetcorn has been subject to the most rigorous pre-marketing assessment in the world. It has been scientifically assessed as being as safe as any conventional maize. Food safety is therefore not an issue, it is a question of consumer choice." Many environmental and consumer groups criticized the Commission's decision.


Despite the authorization, Syngenta announced its decision not to market its GM sweetcorn. The decision is due to high consumer opposition and to the reluctance of the European food industry to add GM corn to its product range. It remains to be seen how the approval will influence the WTO dispute on EU's biotechnology regulatory framework brought by the US, Canada and Argentina.


Links to further information

UN Wire, 19 May 2004

Reuters News Service, 20 May 2004

Cordis News, 24 May 2004

Cordis News, 26 May 2004



On 21 May 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada reached a decision in the Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto case. By a 5-4 majority ruling, it found Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser guilty of violating Monsanto's patent on a gene creating resistance to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The Court determined that patent rights on a specific gene extend to the living organism in which the gene is found. Consequently, saving and planting seed containing a patented gene without authorization from the patent holder is illegal.


The case was initiated in 1997, when Monsanto found its GM canola growing on Schmeiser's farm. Schmeiser argued that the seeds arrived in his fields by accident in 1997. He said that he saved seeds from his 1997 crop and planted them the following year, without knowing that they included Monsanto's GM patented seeds.


The Supreme Court recognized Monsanto's broad power to exercise its patent, despite an earlier decision by the same court in the Harvard oncomouse case to reject patents on higher life forms. However, it overturned a lower court ruling that would have required Schmeiser to pay Monsanto nearly US$14,000 in profits from the sale of his 1998 crop, arguing that Schmeiser has not benefited from Monsanto's technology because he did not use the herbicide that the company's plants were developed to resist.


Carl Casale, Monsanto's executive Vice-President noted that "the Supreme Court has set a world standard in intellectual property protection and this ruling maintains Canada as an attractive investment opportunity." Calling the decision a moral and personal victory, Percy Schmeiser said "We have a conflict between plants breeder's rights and patent law and the government will have to sort that out. All I did was save my seed from year to year. Now it is clear that a company's patent will take precedence over the rights of farmer's to save and reuse their seed. Farmers should be concerned about this judgment as they now may lose their ability to continue with this practice."


Links to further information

CBC News, 21 May 2004
ETC Group News Release, 21 May 2004

Monsanto's press release, 21 May 2004

The full text of the Supreme Court's decision on Monsanto Canada Inc v
Schmeiser, 21 May 2004
Percy Schmeiser's release, 22 May 2004 

GRAIN release, 24 May 2004

SciDev.Net Editorial, 1 June 2004



International Biodiversity Day was celebrated recently on 22 May under the theme "Biodiversity: Water, food and health for all." Hamdallah Zedan, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), noted that the theme was chosen to reflect the CBD's firm commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said "the consequences of failing to stop the loss of biodiversity are too awful to contemplate." He called for national policies and new and additional financial and technical resources to support international treaties in the field of biodiversity protection, such as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.


Further highlighting the links between biodiversity conservation and food security, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that its 2004 World Food Day will focus on the importance of biodiversity for agriculture, food security and rural livelihoods.


Links to further information

CBD's message, 22 May 2004

UN Press Release, 21 May 2004

FAO News Release, 20 May 2004

UN Wire, 21 May 2004


Cod stocks have declined dramatically over the last decades and could disappear by 2020, according to a report released by WWF. The report focuses on the Barents Sea, which is north of Norway and Russia and houses the world's largest remaining cod stock, and finds illegal and unsustainable fishing, industrial development and oil exploration responsible for the declining stocks.


The report highlights that, while the Barents Sea cod stock, which is managed by Russia and Norway, appears to be healthy, this may not last, since fish quotas for 2004 are 100,000 tonnes over what is considered by scientists to be sustainable. Furthermore, up to 100,000 tonnes of cod is found to be caught illegally every year. 


According to Rasmus Hansson, CEO of WWF-Norway, "to address these new threats, the Barents Sea cod stock needs to become more resistant, especially since it consists mainly of younger cod that reproduce less frequently than the older ones. Only sound management of the fishery by the Russian and Norwegian governments will ensure the long term sustainability of the world's last large cod stock."


Links to further information

WWF press release, 13 May 2004

UN Wire, 14 May 2004

The report "The Barents Sea Cod — The Last of the Large Cod Stocks"



On 15 May 2004, trade regulations for all 33 species of seahorses entered into force under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Their listing under Appendix II of CITES was approved in November 2002 due to concerns over threats to a number of the world's species of seahorses from overfishing and unsustainable trade.


Seahorses are traded internationally for use in aquaria and in traditional Asian medicine. IUCN has identified nine seahorse species as vulnerable, one as endangered, and lacks data to determine the status of the remaining species. Protection for seahorses is critical, because their biology makes them particularly vulnerable to overfishing; most species are monogamous and the males gestate the eggs supplied by the females.


The wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and Project Seahorse have produced an ID manual to support the seahorse trade regulations efforts globally. It aims to assist customs agents and others to identify the different species of seahorses in trade.


Links to further information

Environment News Service, 14 May 2004

TRAFFIC press release, 12 May 2004



The CITES Secretariat has received over 50 government proposals for new rules on international wildlife trade, in preparation for CITES COP-13 to be held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 2-14 October 2004.


Frequent features on the CITES agenda, the African elephants and the cetaceans are yet again set to dominate discussions at the upcoming COP. Namibia has submitted a proposal for an annual export quota of two tonnes of ivory, while Namibia and South Africa are proposing to trade elephant leather in addition to ivory. Japan proposes to downlist three populations of minke whale from Appendix I to Appendix II. Madagascar and Australia are proposing to add the great white shark to Appendix II. The Malagasy spider tortoise and the African lion are being proposed for an Appendix I listing. Cuba and Namibia are proposing to downlist their crocodile populations from Appendix I to Appendix II.


Among the plant proposals are Appendix II listings for Asia's commercially valuable agarwood and ramin trees.


Links to further information

CITES Press Release, 12 May 2004



Half of the world's 1,200 wild bamboo species are in danger of extinction because of forest destruction, a global study undertaken by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan and UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre indicated. Deforestation impacts animals such as lemurs, giant pandas and mountain gorillas that depend on bamboo for food and shelter, and millions of people who use wild bamboo for construction, handicrafts and food. The international trade in bamboo products, mostly from cultivated sources, is worth more than $2 billion annually.


The study, which is the most comprehensive ever undertaken on the subject, uses novel methods of analyses to combine distribution data on bamboo species and existing forest cover. It shows that many wild bamboo species only have small amounts of forest remaining within their native ranges. Aiming to create a planning tool for conservation action, the study identifies locations of high forest bamboo diversity and areas where deforestation risks are highest.


Peter Wyse-Jackson, Interim Chairman of the Global Partnership for Plant Conservation, has welcomed the report highlighting its important contribution to implementing the Convention on Biological Diversity's Global Strategy for Plant Conservation, "By assessing conservation status, identifying areas important for bamboo diversity and in situ conservation of threatened species, and providing information on the use of wild species, the Bamboo Biodiversity report contributes directly to implementation of the Global Strategy and achievement of its targets."


Links to further information

UNEP Press Release, 11 May 2004

Bamboo Biodiversity Report Volume 1 and  Volume 2



In a decision hailed by environmental, consumer and farmer groups, Monsanto, the world's largest seller of GM seeds, announced it would defer efforts to introduce Roundup Ready wheat, until other wheat biotechnology traits are introduced.


Monsanto recognized that "the business opportunities with Roundup Ready spring wheat are less attractive relative to Monsanto's other commercial priorities." Japan, America's major wheat importer, has announced it will accept no wheat - conventional or GM - from any nation that grows GM wheat.


Lisa Archer of Friends of the Earth said, "This is worldwide victory for consumers and farmers. Virtually every major wheat-user in the world had already rejected this product before it even was allowed on the market. This must be one of the most rejected products ever developed."


Links to further information

Monsanto's press release, 10 May 2004

Washington Post, 10 May 2004

Friends of the Earth press release, 10 May 2004



Soybeans have become the favored crop among Argentine farmers, not only because of a steady demand, but also because they are inexpensive to cultivate, in part due to cost-saving innovations, such as the use of GM seeds and the adoption of a technique called direct planting. However, many experts, economists, agronomists and environmentalists warn of the dangers of a monoculture economy, pointing out that it is not sustainable in the long run.


Furthermore, studies from the National University of Rosario and Argentina's National Institute of Agricultural Technology have found that several previously uncommon species of glyphosate-resistant weeds have increased in abundance, and GM soy farmers are being forced to spray higher concentrations of Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide. Agronomists warn that glyphosate resistance can be transferred to other weed species, turning them into superweeds. Concerns also relate to the impact of heavy herbicide usage on the soil.


In Brazil, Greenpeace prevented a cargo ship carrying GM Argentine soybeans from topping off its load in Paranagua, Brazil's main grain port, which has banned GM soybeans since October 2003. Gabriela Vuolo, Greenpeace, said "the economic advantages of being the largest supplier of GMO-free soybeans in the world could be lost if there is no control to avoid contamination." Local agricultural analysts however say Paranagua's effort to ban GM soybeans in search of better prices could backfire and disrupt Brazil's soy exports.


Links to further information

Reuters News Service, 4 May 2004

New Scientist, 17 April 2004


APRIL 2004



The EU will fail to reach the goal of reducing species loss by 2010 if it does not prevent the decline of its nature-rich farmlands, states a joint report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and UNEP, entitled "High nature value farmland: Characteristics, trends and policy challenges." The 2010 biodiversity target was adopted by the sixth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity in April 2002, when it adopted its Strategic Plan. This target was later endorsed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg.


High nature-value farmland, which is usually characterized by low intensity agriculture, is recognized as for its crucial role in reaching the 2010 target, and the report warns that such farmlands are under severe pressure from two contrasting trends – increasing intensity of agriculture in some areas and abandonment of farming in others. It is estimated that such high nature-value farmland covers 15-25% of the EU countryside, with the largest areas being found in eastern and southern Europe and northern Britain. The situation outside the EU has not been characterized.


EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade noted that "current policy measures appear insufficient to prevent further decline in high nature value farmland areas and reach the 2010 biodiversity target. Consideration needs to be given to improving the geographical targeting of agricultural subsidies, especially of less favored area support and agri-environment schemes." Frits Schlingemann, Director of UNEP's Regional Office for Europe, added that "with the common agricultural policy increasingly focused on non-trade concerns, and sustainability now a guiding principle, we hope this report will spur the policy debate and encourage countries and institutions to refine the high nature value farmland concept and further focus their conservation efforts."


Links to further information

UNEP Press Release, 29 April 2004

The Report



The new EU rules on the labeling and tracing of genetically modified (GM) foods came into effect on 18 April 2004. The rules, which are described by the European Commission as the toughest GM food regulations in the world, require food and animal feed to be labeled if they contain at least 0.9 % of GM ingredients.


In a move to align its GM product rules with the EU standards, Russia has also issued a new requirement for the labeling of all foods containing at least 0.9 % of GM material. Previous Russian legislation required labeling for foods with GM content of at least 5 %. 


Also, according to new Brazilian legislation, all human and animal food containing more than 1% of GM ingredients must now be labeled, although the law excludes Brazil's only widely cultivated GM crop, Roundup Ready soya, from labeling requirements.


Links to further information

Reuters News Service, 20 April 2004

CORDIS News, 19 April 2004

SciDev.Net, 16 April 2004

MoS, 9 April 2004



In the biggest annual seal hunt in Canada over the last 50 years, the Canadian government has permitted the killing of up to 350,000 seals, and nearly a million seals in total over the next three years. The decision drew protests from animal rights groups, who claim the hunt is barbaric, with seals being clubbed to death or skinned alive. The government on the other hand argues that the campaign is ecologically sound and economically justified, claiming that harp seals are abundant and that a reduction of their population may help depleted cod stocks recover.


After rising international outrage over the hunt in the 1970s and 1980s caused the US to ban imports of seal products in 1972 and led to the collapse of European markets for seal pelts, Canada passed legislation in 1987 to reduce quotas to 15,000 annually, ban the killing of whitecoat seal pups younger than 12 days old, and limit sealers to the use of small boats. With markets for seal skins and products reviving in Asia and eastern Europe, the hunt is seen as significant economic activity for Newfoundland's fishing industry. Despite criticism from environmentalists and the international media, the seal hunt has broad support in the Canadian press.


In a bid to make the killings more humane, Canada has new guidelines recommending that most seals be shot and not clubbed to death. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says the guidelines on humane hunting methods are being ignored.


Links to further information

Reuters News Service, 16 April 2004

IFAW Press Release, 14 April 2004

New Scientist, 14 April 2004

BBC News, 13 April 2004

UN Wire, 12 April 2004



The Ramsar Convention Bureau has concluded a three-way Joint Work Plan with the Secretariats of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the CMS's African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA).  Signed at the recent Global Flyways Conference, the new Joint Work Plan is designed to operationalize the 1997 Memorandum of Understanding between the Ramsar Convention and the CMS, which identified five "Areas of cooperation" concerning: joint promotion; institutional cooperation; joint conservation action; data collection, storage and analysis; and new Agreements on migratory species including those with unfavorable conservation status. Signatories will promote the implementation of the other convention by existing Contracting Parties, and institutional cooperation will promote the exchange of data to coordinate annual work programmes and activities with a view to identifying possible joint activities that could lead to joint efforts to achieve synergies and economies of scale.


Links to further information

CMS press release, 8 April 2004

The Joint Work Plan



Hundreds of critically endangered species remain without protection, a study conducted by the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science at Conservation International showed.


This comprehensive peer-reviewed global study, the findings of which were published in Nature, combined five global data sets on the distribution of species and protected areas to provide the first global gap analysis assessing the effectiveness of protected areas in representing species diversity. It identified places where species live without any protection, and analyzed where the highest priority gaps in protection exist. In total, participating scientists analyzed 1,171 threatened bird species, and 4,735 mammal, 5,454 amphibian and 273 freshwater turtle and tortoise species. They identified 149 mammals, 411 amphibians, 232 birds, and 12 tortoises that are threatened with extinction and enjoy no protection of any kind. The scientists concluded that, while the actual area of protected land has risen, these threatened species do not benefit from the increase. Gaps in protected area coverage could lead to the extinction of several unique species. The study showed that the global protected area network is far from complete, and demonstrated the inadequacy of uniform conservation targets.


Conservation International calls for focusing specifically on places with the greatest concentrations of threatened and endemic species, such as Madagascar and Papua New Guinea, noting that the most endangered animals and plants will not survive outside protected areas.


Links to further information

Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity, Nature 428, 640-643, 8 April 2004

ENS, 7 April 2004  



Myanmar has established the world's largest tiger reserve. The Hukawng Valley Tiger Reserve in northern Myanmar spans 8,400-square-miles in what used to be known as the Valley of Death. Larger than all of India's tiger reserves combined, the reserve now has 80 to 100 endangered tigers, but is large enough for 1,000. Living in the reserve are also elephants, clouded leopards and the rare gaur, a species of wild cattle weighing as much as a ton. The establishment of the reserve is the result of efforts by the Myanmar Forest Department and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


"If the Hukawng Valley is properly protected and managed, this area could contain the largest contiguous population of tigers in the world, and help seed other potential tiger habitats that have already lost this magnificent animal," said WCS Director of Science and Exploration Alan Rabinowitz.


U Khin Maung Zaw, Director of the Myanmar Forest Department's wildlife conservation division, said the tigers could rebound quickly, but that locals who are used to poaching the animals for their body parts would need to be offered incentives to stop poaching, if the reserve was to be a success.

Links to further information

UN Wire, 1 April 2004


MARCH 2004



Eleven European countries, Egypt and the European Community have ratified the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, bringing the number of ratifications to 48. The Treaty will thus enter into force on 29 June 2004, ninety days after the deposit of its 40th ratification.


The Treaty is a legally binding instrument that targets the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and equitable benefit-sharing for sustainable agriculture and food security. It establishes a multilateral system for facilitated access to a specified list of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, balanced by benefit-sharing in the areas of information exchange, technology transfer, capacity building and commercial development. The Treaty contains sections on general provisions, farmers' rights, supporting components, and financial and institutional provisions, and recognizes the need for close links with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The list of crops in Annex I, which defines the Treaty's scope, includes 35 crop genera and 29 forage species.


The Treaty's negotiations spanned seven years and were based on the revision of the non-binding International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture to be in harmony with the CBD. The negotiations were held under the auspices of the FAO's Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, which reviews and advises the FAO on policy, programmes and activities related to the conservation, sustainable use and equitable sharing of benefits derived from the utilization of genetic resources of relevance to food and agriculture.


Links to further information

FAO News Release, 31 March 2004
UN Wire, 31 March 2004



The population of the endangered eastern lowland gorilla has declined by more than 70% in the last decade, says Conservation International. Found almost exclusively in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the gorillas have declined in numbers from 17,000 in 1994 to 5,000 today, mostly due to hunting.


"The staggering and almost immediate disappearance of the eastern lowland gorilla underscores the alarming decline of an entire ecosystem," said Juan Carlos Bonilla, senior director for Central Africa at Conservation International. "But this joint effort - which includes everyone from tribal chiefs to non-governmental organizations and national governments - represents an unprecedented commitment to preserve the region."


Conservation International has announced that it is providing a three-year grant to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International to increase protection of more than 3 million hectares where 97% of the eastern lowland gorillas live. According to the organization, other species, such as the chimpanzee, forest elephant, Nile crocodile, Congo peacock, Congo bay owl, okapi and leopard, sharing the same habitat with the gorillas in the D.R.C. are also declining in number because of hunting, mining and human encroachment in the area.

Links to further information

Conservation International press release, 30 March 2004

UN Wire, 31 March 2004



The worldwide loss of domestic animal breeds is "continuing at an alarming rate," cautions the Food and Agriculture Organization. Of approximately 6,300 breeds registered by FAO, 1,350 are either threatened by extinction or are already extinct mostly due to wars, pests, diseases, global warming, urbanization, intensification of agriculture and trading of exotic breeding material. According to the organization, the greatest cause of genetic erosion is the failure to appreciate the value of locally adapted breeds. In many countries, farmers rely on a limited number of modern breeds that are most suited for intensive agriculture systems.


"Genetic diversity is an insurance against future threats such as famine, drought and epidemics. The existing animal gene pool may contain valuable but unknown resources that could be very useful for future food security and agricultural development," said Irene Hoffmann, chief of FAO's Animal Production Service.


Links to further information

FAO Press Release, 31 March 2004

UN Wire, 31 March 2004



A truck loaded with animal parts, including nearly 800 severed bear paws, was seized in Russia as it was heading for China. Bear paws are highly prized in Chinese restaurants, where they fetch a fortune. Poaching is a serious problem in many eastern Russian regions and Siberia, where widespread poverty eclipses ecological concerns.


Links to further information

Reuters News Service, 22 March 2004



Chinese officials have seized nearly 300 kilograms (660 lbs) of ivory in the southern city of Guangzhou, China. The operations were conducted on the basis of information provided by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an international campaign organization that has been investigating the ivory market in Guangzhou for three years.


A Chinese official said the operation demonstrates China's political will to deal with the illicit trade in ivory. China's efforts to stop the illegal ivory trade have largely concentrated on border controls so far and the EIA called this seizure "a major breakthrough in internal policing by Chinese authorities."


EIA campaigner Mari Park noted "it is clear that the one-off sale decision has led to an uprise in illegal ivory heading to China. EIA opposes a relaxation of the ban on ivory trade as it will place an enormous burden on enforcement officers in China, as well as other parts of the world." The first one-off ivory sale was agreed by CITES in 1997, and a second one-off sale of ivory from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa was approved in 2002.


Links to further information

ENS, 15 March 2004



Tiger populations in the Sundarbans appear to be on the rebound, suggest preliminary results of a recent census. Shared by both Bangladesh and India, the Sundarbans are the world's largest mangrove forests – a fragile ecosystem that is home to a growing six million people and what is thought to be a dwindling Bengal tiger population. The census began on the Indian side of the Sundarbans in mid-January and continued on the Bangladeshi side in early February. Preliminary results of the census on both sides suggest that the tigers may be on the rebound.


According to Environment and Forest Minister Shajahan Siraj, "the actual number of tigers may be more than what we had estimated - it could be as high as 500," adding that a 1993 survey had estimated the population at 350 to 400.

The Bangladesh census, funded by the government of Bangladesh and the UN Development Programme, involved over 250 people working in 32 groups. Census workers made plaster molds of pugmarks to fix age, weight and gender of individual animals and determine the total count of Bengal tigers. While the survey found a healthy number of paw prints or pugmarks (1,546), the scarcity of cub tracks (only 34) could indicate a decline in breeding.


Bangladesh and India will simultaneously announce their final census results in July. The data will feed into a UNESCO-funded biodiversity project studying tiger behavior.


Links to further information

Reuters News Service, 27 February 2004

UN Wire, 11 March 2004



Illegal trade in ivory is flourishing in the UK despite the country's good law enforcement capacity, says the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in a recent report. Entitled "Elephants on the High Street," the report comes on the eve of a CITES agreement for a one-off sale of a total of 60 tonnes of ivory from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa to Japan. IFAW is urging the UK government to vote against this proposed sale and the reopening of the legal ivory trade at a meeting of the CITES Standing Committee that is taking place from 15-19 March.


Following a two-month undercover investigation of antique traders in London and other cities across Britain, IFAW found thousands of ivory objects offered openly for sale without the necessary papers or with forged documents. Investigators also found thousands of illegal ivory items for sale on various Internet auction sites. The report concludes that Britain is the third biggest source of illegal ivory being smuggled into the United States, which has been identified by CITES as a major contributor to the continued poaching of African elephants. This black market business is likely to boom if, as expected, the sales of stockpiled tusks are approved by the CITES Standing Committee. According to an IFAW spokesperson, "any relaxation of the international ban on sales of new ivory will be used as a cover for the killing of more elephants to fuel the illegal trade."


Meanwhile Kenya's Environment Minister Newton Kulundu said Botswana, Namibia and South Africa should not be allowed to sell off stocks of confiscated ivory because they have failed to meet CITES conditions regarding installing monitoring systems for poaching, registering their ivory stocks and establishing domestic laws to protect elephants. He noted that seven African countries – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Tunisia and Uganda – supported Kenya's position.


Links to further information

IFAW report - Elephants on the high streets: an investigation into ivory trade in the UK

Reuters News Service, 12 March 2004

UN Wire, 8 March 2004



The United Kingdom has approved the commercial cultivation of GM corn under strict rules. According to British Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, the government made its decision based on scientific research, where experts concluded that the corn, which is engineered to grow in the presence of certain herbicides, causes no harm to surrounding plants and wildlife. Named Chardon LL maize, the GM corn is used for cattle feed and is manufactured by Cropscience, a unit of Germany's Bayer. It will first be cultivated in the spring of 2005 at the earliest.


The decision was welcomed by the biotechnology industry and many scientists, while it was denounced by environmental and consumer groups. A series of opinion polls in the UK have found that the majority of the British public is opposed to GM crops, and many members of Parliament have recently come out against the approval of GM maize.


Links to further information

UN Wire, 10 March 2004

Independent, 10 March 2004

Reuters News Service, 11 March 2004
AgBios, 9 March 2004



WTO Director-General Supachai Panitchpakdi has appointed the panel that will rule on the US-Argentina-Canada complaint filed by the US, Argentina and Canada against the EU de facto moratorium on GMOs' approvals. The panel will be chaired by Christian Haberli, Head of the International Affairs at the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture. Mohan Kumar, a former diplomat at the Indian Permanent Mission to the WTO in Geneva, and Akio Shimizu are the other two members of the panel. The panel is expected to meet with the parties to agree on working procedures.

Links to further information
ICTSD Trade BioRes, 5 March 2004



Animals in areas that promote ecotourism have changed behavior, heart rates and stress hormone levels, according to a recent report in New Scientist magazine. Examples include bottleneck dolphins in New Zealand, who become frenetic when tourist boats arrive, and yellow-eyed penguins in areas visited by ecotourists, who are producing smaller chicks. In response, conservationists have called for research on the impact of ecotourism on animals and for studies to be conducted before ecotourism projects are initiated.


Links to further information

New Scientist, 4 March 2004





Pharmaceutical and industrial crops are the "back door" to food contamination, says a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. This implication was made because of the role of such industries in producing drugs, vaccines and industrial chemicals. Entitled "Gone to Seed," the report warns that current US testing methods may not detect all possible contaminants, and urged the US government to strengthen regulations for industrial and pharmaceutical GM crops. The Union of Concerned Scientists also suggested that the US establish a reservoir of non-genetically modified seeds in case GM crops fail.


Links to further information

UN Wire, 22 February 2004

Gone to Seed report



The most comprehensive study of endangered humpback whales is set to begin. Hundreds of researchers from the US, Japan, Russia, Mexico, Canada, the Philippines, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala will be working together in a research study called SPLASH, which stands for "Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance and Status of Humpbacks."


A partnership of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program and NOAA Fisheries, SPLASH is an international cooperative initiative that aims to understand the population structure of humpback whales across the North Pacific, and to evaluate the status, trends and potential human impact on humpback populations. Costing over $3 million and spanning three years, SPLASH will be conducted throughout the Pacific – from the north in the Bering Sea and Far East Russia to the south in Mexico and Costa Rica to the west in Hawaii and in Asian tropical waters – where humpbacks are known to roam. Participating scientists will take photographs of whales to help them identify and obtain estimates of whale ages and sex distribution and determine reproductive and mortality rates. Scientists will also take tissue samples to collect information on genetic diversity, and to determine levels of contamination by persistent organic pollutants. The information obtained will be translated and distributed throughout the research community.


Listed by the US Federal government as an endangered species in 1973, the northern Pacific humpback enjoyed an estimated population of 15,000 in the pre-whaling period. This number had plummeted by more than 50% to 7,000 in 1992, the most recent year reliable data was gathered. Scientists today say whale populations have been recovering due to the global moratorium on commercial whaling that began in 1986.


Links to further information

SPLASH webpage

Environment News Service, 18 February 2004



Seven tropical community initiatives have been awarded the Equator Initiative Prize. Selected from a pool of over 340 nominations and 26 finalists, the seven winning initiatives, which received $30,000 each, were recognized for their exceptional achievements in reducing poverty through conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.


Announced at the recent meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the winners are Colombia's Proyecto Nasa, Mexico's Comunidad Indigena de Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro, India's Genetic Resource, Energy, Ecology and Nutrition Foundation, Indonesia's Bunaken National Park Management Advisory Board and Bunaken Concerned Citizen's Forum, Tanzania's Rufiji Environment Management Project and Namibia's Torra Conservancy. Brazil's Sociedade Civil Mamirauá was given special recognition for pioneering the creation of Sustainable Development Reserves in Brazil within a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Spearheaded by UNDP, the Equator Initiative is a partnership initiative that brings together the UN, governments, civil society, the private sector and local groups with the aim of enhancing the capacity and raising the profile of grassroots efforts that promote sustainable communities in developing countries within the equatorial belt. Other partners in the initiative include BrasilConnects, the government of Canada, Conservation International, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Development Research Centre, IUCN, The Nature Conservancy, Television Trust for the Environment, and the United Nations Foundation.


Links to further information

UNDP Equator Initiative webpage



The Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) entered into force on 1 February with Australia, Ecuador, New Zealand, South Africa and Spain as parties to the agreement. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, Peru, and the UK have also signed the ACAP, and it is hoped that these countries will become party to the Agreement shortly.


Albatrosses and petrels are considered endangered and among the most threatened group of birds in the world. In addition to being exposed to various risks from marine pollution and having their food source overfished, these giant birds are often ensnared in longline fishing. Seen by many environmentalists as the last chance to save the giant birds, the ACAP is a legally binding agreement requiring Parties to introduce measures to mitigate the effect of unsustainable fishing practices on the conservation status of the birds. Attention is being paid to the effects of illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and longline fishing practices. The Agreement will also allow members to implement an action plan to protect critical habitat, control non-native species detrimental to albatrosses and petrels, and support research into the effective conservation of albatrosses and petrels.


Australia will serve as the Interim Secretariat for the Agreement until the first meeting of the parties is held and the location of the Permanent Secretariat determined. The Agreement requires that the first meeting of the parties be held with a year of its entry into force.


Links to further information

Australian Arctic Division press release, 1 February 2004





Environment ministers from Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Niger and Senegal meeting at a roundtable organized by UNESCO on 26 January 2004, expressed concern for the ongoing environmental degradation and increasing poverty across the African continent, and committed to promoting the use of biosphere reserves as operational sites for sustainable development in the fight against poverty and in implementing the action plan of the environment initiative of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).


A project launched involving UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme and UNEP will explore how West African biosphere reserves can be developed and maintained, while allowing human activities such as ecotourism. The areas chosen include the Pendjari Biosphere Reserve in Benin, which is ringed by 30 villages, the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve wetlands in Burkina Faso, and the Comoé Biosphere Reserve in Côte d'Ivoire, which has about 210 people living in its core area. Also included are the Boucle de Baoulé in Mali, fringed by dense forests with many nearby ethnic groups, the Niokolo-Koba Biosphere Reserve in Senegal, as well as the million-hectare transboundary 'W' Region Biosphere Reserve in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Links to further information

UN Wire, 27 January 2004

SciDev.Net, 27 January 2004



UNEP has recently joined the Conservation Finance Alliance (CFA). Comprising a wide range of member organizations, such as the Conservation International, Ramsar Convention, Danida (Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs), GTZ, IUCN, National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and UNDP, the CFA was created "to catalyze increased and sustainable public and private financing for biodiversity conservation to support the effective implementation of global commitments to conservation." The CFA was established in February 2002 to encourage and enhance collaboration among institutions and organizations involved in the sustainable financing of biodiversity conservation.


Links to further information

Conservation finance Alliance website



According to a census conducted late 2003 by Rwandan, Ugandan and Congolese wildlife experts, the number of mountain gorillas in central Africa grew from 324 in 1989 to 380 last year, indicating a 17% population increase, in spite of warfare in the region. The Virunga mountain gorillas have for many years been threatened by poaching, habitat loss, civil unrest and spread of disease, but conservation efforts are helping ensure that this highly endangered mountain gorilla population will endure. Initiated by the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP), a coalition of the African Wildlife Foundation, Fauna and Flora International and World Wide Fund for Nature, these conservation efforts encompass a variety of approaches, including transboundary collaboration, ranger-based monitoring, community development, anti-poaching activities and habitat conservation.


Links to further information

UN Wire, 20 January 2004

African Wildlife Foundation Press Release, 19 January 2004

WWF Press Release, 19 January 2004



The European Commission has approved a list of 959 nature sites in mountain regions within the EU in an effort to enhance protection of the areas and their endangered animal and plant species. The list covers sites in the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Apennines and the Fennoscandian mountains, and includes endangered animal and plant species and habitats such as the brown bear, Yellow Lady's-slipper and mountain hay meadows. This action is considered to be a step forward in the direction of establishing Natura 2000, the network of protected sites in the EU.


Links to further information

EC Press Release, 14 January 2004



As a result of a petition signed by 1.9 million people, forwarded by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for an EU bushmeat strategy aimed at conserving biodiversity and protecting species threatened by trade in wild animal foods. Noting depletion of wildlife populations, EAZA and IFAW warn that the slaughter of wild animals for sale in urban areas threatens the existence of species, weakens food security for forest peoples, and poses a threat to human health from animal derived diseases. Large quantities of bushmeat are estimated to be illegally imported from Africa to Europe.


Links to further information

EAZA Press Release, 14 January 2004

The Bushmeat Campaign website


A UNDP-funded census to count the royal Bengal tiger population in the Sundarbans commenced recently. Shared by both Bangladesh and India, the Sundarbans are the world's largest mangrove forests – a fragile ecosystem that is home to a growing six million people and a dwindling Bengal tiger population. The census began on the Indian side of the Sundarbans in mid-January and will continue on the Bangladeshi side in early February. Initial surveys of "pugmarks" and cub prints indicate that the Bengal tiger population in eastern India may be on the rebound.


UNDP spokesperson Lisa Hiller called the effort a "historic milestone in cross-border collaboration to protect globally significant biodiversity." As part of the census effort, local communities will receive training on how to help relocate "stray" tigers back to the wilderness and away from human-populated areas. Tigers kill about 50 humans every year on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, while about 22 people were killed in 2003 on the Bangladeshi side.


Links to further information

UNDP press release

UN wire, 22 January 2004



The European Commission is taking steps to implement the Bonn Guidelines and increase equity and fairness in the use of exotic species. A recently adopted EC Communication on access to genetic resources and benefit-sharing strongly encourages companies and research institutions to use standard agreements with the providers of genetic resources when they seek access to them. Such agreements would set out terms and conditions under which genetic resources could be accessed and used, and how the benefits from their use should be shared with the providers. Providers of genetic resources may be governments, local authorities, land owners, indigenous peoples and local populations. All users of genetic resources are also encouraged to develop their own codes of conduct as a means of respecting the Convention on Biological Diversity. The EC also envisages a series of measures on awareness-raising and opens the debate on the introduction into EU law of a requirement for patent applicants to reveal where they got the genetic resources they used from and if they made use of traditional knowledge.


Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström said, "This is an issue of equity and fairness. The EU wants developing countries to have a fair and equitable share of the benefits arising from the use of so-called genetic resources. The Commission wants to ensure that companies and research institutes act responsibly and share these gains with developing countries. If these countries use the benefits to protect biodiversity and foster nature conservation, this could provide a win-win situation for trade and for the environment."


Links to further information

EC Press Release, 7 January 2004

The text of the EC Communication


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