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<>Pygmy Elephant.

Small population of placid and genetically distinct elephants live in the northeast corner of Borneo, a Southeast Asian island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Pygmy elephants and palm oil threat in Borneo - the only hope for these elephants now is protection of the lowland forest as nature reserves or sustainably managed logging concessions.

Plantation managers see the elephants as a nuisance and a threat and kill them.

The oil palm industry must be controlled in an appropriate way so that the whole suite of species at risk in Borneo is not wiped out

Image: NationalGeographic.com
Pygmy Elephants and Palm Oil Threat
Driven by surging demand from the biofuels industry, northeastern Borneo forest is being converted to palm oil plantations at increasing rates.
Oil palm plantations are to elephants what a candy store is to little kids — they just love them."
The love, however is not shared by plantation managers who view the elephants as a nuisance and kill them.
Biologists estimate about a thousand elephants remain on Borneo.
The only hope for these elephants now is protection of the lowland forest as nature reserves or sustainably managed logging concessions.
Palm oil expansion threatens a host of species on Borneo.
It is necessary that the oil palm industry is controlled and farmed in an appropriate way so that the whole suite of species at risk in Borneo isn't wiped out
Tabuina varirata

The Tabuina varirata jumping spider is not only a species new to science, but Tabuina is a genus new to science.

It belongs to the subfamily Cocalodinae, a highly distinctive group unique to New Guinea and the region that previously had only two known genera.  

Nothing is known about its ecology except for the habitat.

Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.

They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.

Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.

In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).

They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.

The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.

Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.

This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.

Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Tabuina varirata
The Tabuina varirata jumping spider is not only a species new to science, but Tabuina is a genus new to science.
It belongs to the subfamily Cocalodinae, a highly distinctive group unique to New Guinea and the region that previously had only two known genera.
Nothing is known about its ecology except for the habitat.
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.
They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.
Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.
In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).
They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.
The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.
Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.
Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
 
Thursday, 8 November 2007
Palm oil warning for Indonesia
Jungle in Borneo, Indonesia

Huge swathes of Indonesia jungle under threat
Huge swathes of Indonesia's jungles are under threat
Land clearances in Indonesia to meet the growing global demand for palm oil pose a serious threat to the environment, a report has warned.
Forests are being burned and peat wetlands drained for plantations, causing huge releases of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Greenpeace said.
The environmental group warned of a potential "climate bomb" and called for the clearances to stop.
Palm oil is an ingredient in foods and a bio-fuel added to diesel for cars.
It is already controversial because it is often grown on rainforest land in South-East Asia, says the BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin.
But Greenpeace's "Cooking the Climate" report investigates the cultivation of the crop in Indonesian peat swamps, thought to be one of the most valuable stores of carbon in the world.
Carbon store
In normal rainforest there is much more carbon stored in microbes in the soil than in the leaves and branches of the trees.
In peat wetlands that is magnified with soils many metres deep. But these wetlands are fast being cleared and drained, causing large quantities of carbon dioxide to be emitted.
According to the report, every year 1.8bn tonnes of carbon dioxide - a major cause of climate change - are released by the destruction of Indonesia's peat wetlands.
"Unless efforts are made to halt forest and peatland destruction, emissions from these peatlands may trigger a 'climate bomb'," Greenpeace warned.
Indonesia is looking to become the world's top producer of palm oil.
But in July, environmental groups said a huge project planned for Borneo would cause irreparable harm to the territory and culture of indigenous people.
MMVII
 
 
Illegally cut timber
Orthrus

The Orthrus jumping spider is potentially a species new to science.

Nothing is known about its ecology.
  
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.

They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.

Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.

In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).

They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.

The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.

Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.

This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.

In Greek mythology, Orthrus is a two-headed dog and a doublet of Cerberus, both whelped by the chthonic monster Echidna by Typhon.

Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Orthrus
The Orthrus jumping spider is potentially a species new to science.
Nothing is known about its ecology.
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.
They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.
Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.
In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).
They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.
The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.
Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
This jumping spider was found on a tree in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea.
In Greek mythology, Orthrus is a two-headed dog and a doublet of Cerberus, both whelped by the chthonic monster Echidna by Typhon.
Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Photo: M Watson and A. Shah 2007 IUCN Red List/BBC
The 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows there has been little success in stemming the slide of Earth's biodiversity.
Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among many plants and animals sliding closer to extinction.
Friday, 30 August, 2002
Clock ticking for Indonesian rainforest
Deforested area of Tesso Nilo
Vast tracts of the forest have been destroyed
Richard Galpin
By Richard Galpin
BBC correspondent in Jakarta
The Indonesian island of Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world and once boasted some of the most extensive and richest areas of tropical rainforest anywhere on the planet — but no longer.
It is estimated 60% of the total forest cover has been destroyed over the past 100 years, with the rate of destruction increasing rapidly in the 1970s and 80s under the authoritarian regime of former President Suharto.
His government was particularly keen on dividing up vast areas of the country's forests into concessions given to powerful businessmen to log and convert into rubber and palm-oil plantations.

Every day up to 350 lorries have been travelling along this road. I believe 100 of them contain illegal logs from Tesso Nilo

WWF official
This along with the resettlement of millions of people from over-crowded Java to islands such as Sumatra and Borneo, all of whom needed land to farm, saw deforestation reach unprecedented levels.
Today it is estimated around two million hectares (five million acres) of Indonesian forest are lost every year — an area equivalent to the size of Belgium.
And the majority of the logging is believed to be illegal.
Race against time
In Sumatra environmentalists are now fighting a desperate battle to save the last substantial part of the lowland forest still standing.
Sumatran tiger and cub
Sumatran tigers are under threat
The forest in Riau province is called Tesso Nilo and organisations such as the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) believe it is critical it is turned into a special conservation area.
"This lowland forest is the prime habitat of the Sumatran tiger, elephants and other important species," said Nazir Foead of WWF Indonesia.
"If Tesso Nilo forest goes, then the chances of survival for these endangered species will be very, very slim."
Unparalleled diversity
On top of this, recent research commissioned by WWF discovered that Tesso Nilo has the highest level of biodiversity on earth.
Scientists found more than 200 vascular plant species in just 200 square metres of forest — far more even than in the Amazon.

I will not ask my people to stop the logging. I will tell them to carry on, as long as these companies are getting our wood, then why should we stop?

Village chief Mohammed Hatta
But time is fast running out for the world's richest forest which presently occupies an area of just 1,500 square kilometres (579 square miles).
If the current rate of logging continues, it will have disappeared within the next four years.
Driving into the area it is easy to see why. A major road has been built through the forest making it easy to access the timber.
Every few minutes lorries laden with logs groan along the road belching diesel fumes into the atmosphere.
"Every day up to 350 lorries have been travelling along this road," said one WWF official who has been monitoring the logging here.
"I believe 100 of them contain illegal logs from Tesso Nilo."
Easy money
We drove further into the forest and soon could hear the sound of chainsaws in the distance.
The illegal loggers are a mixture of local villagers and gangs of people who have come from further afield, generally from other provinces in Sumatra.
What they have in common is poverty. The case of Kamarudin, a local villager, is typical. We followed him as he slashed his way deep into the forest, with his chainsaw balanced on his shoulder.
Logging truck
A constant stream of trucks take the trees for pulping
It did not take him long to find what he wanted — a large tropical hardwood tree called Meranti. The tree, which took decades to grow, came crashing to the ground within a couple of minutes.
"Chopping down trees like this hardwood Meranti, I can earn $60 a week," he said. "Much more than the rubber plantation where I used to work where the money wasn't enough to feed my family."
Local anger
We went back to Kamarudin's village in the middle of the forest — a desperately poor area.
More and more villagers have been turning to illegal logging over the last five years since the Asian economic crisis hit Indonesia.
According to the village head, Mohammed Hatta, it will not be long before more than half the families here are involved in chopping down wood.
Mr Hatta is actively encouraging this because he believes his people have the right to do so, as he says the land is theirs.
Such a direct challenge to the authorities would have been unthinkable under the repressive regime of former President Suharto. But since the advent of democracy in 1998 local communities have been asserting themselves much more.
Mr Hatta is angry that over the years the government has given the rights to the whole of Tesso Nilo forest to several logging and plantation companies.
"I will not ask my people to stop the logging," he said, "I will tell them to carry on, as long as these companies are getting our wood, then why should we stop?"
Indonesian logger
The loggers are driven by poverty
Massive operation
The scale of the main forestry industries in the area is breath-taking. We visited the Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper company (RAPP) on the outskirts of the forest, one of two such businesses based in the province.
It is a huge, hi-tech industrial complex housing the world's largest pulp mill. It produces almost two million tons of pulp every year, consuming eight million tons of wood in the process.
It is a non-stop operation. The mill operates 24-hours a day, with a never-ending convoy of trucks arriving at the factory to supply the wood.
Back in 1993 the government gave RAAP a concession of around 3,000 sq km which it could log and then re-plant with acacia trees.
Part of this concession lies within the Tesso Nilo forest itself.
No guarantees
A spokesman for the company told the BBC the forest it was given to convert to acacia plantations was already degraded — in other words had already been substantially logged.
But WWF says this is wrong, "RAPP is chopping down primary rain-forest," said Mr Foead.
The company is trying to promote itself as environment-friendly because it says within six years it will have planted enough acacia trees to provide a sustainable source of wood for the pulp mill.
Ironically it can only do this by first destroying swathes of Sumatran rain-forest.
Environmentalists also believe illegal logs from Tesso Nilo are being sold to RAPP. The capacity of the mill is so huge that around one-fifth of the wood supply is provided by outside contractors.
The company says there are stringent checks on the sources of logs provided by these contractors, but admits it cannot guarantee all the wood is legal.
WWF remains optimistic it can save Tesso Nilo from the loggers by persuading the government to turn it into a national park. But it will be an uphill struggle.
Indonesia's Forestry Minister Mohammad Prakosa told the BBC he could not simply revoke the licences given to the companies which had been given the right to log the area.
And even if Tesso Nilo did become a national park, it would still not be safe from the illegal loggers.
The experience in Indonesia's other national parks has been that illegal logging has continued unabated as law enforcement across the country is so weak, not least because the police and other officials are notoriously corrupt.
 
Prolonged drought
Uroballus

This Uroballus jumping spider was found in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea and is potentially a species new to science. 

Nothing is known about its ecology.

The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.

Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
 
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.

They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.

Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.

In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).

They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.

Uroballus are about 3 mm long in both sexes. The cephalothorax is very broad, almost square.

The abdomen is oval, the first pair of legs thick and short with swollen femora.

The other legs are weak.

The spinnerets are very long and thin.

Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Uroballus
This Uroballus jumping spider was found in the rainforest on a RAP survey in Central Province in Papua New Guinea and is potentially a species new to science.
Nothing is known about its ecology.
The jumping spider family Salticidae contains more than 500 described genera and over 5,000 species, making it the largest family of spiders with about 13% of all species.
Probably at least as many species again remain to be discovered around the world.
Jumping spiders have good vision and use it for hunting and navigating.
They are capable of jumping from place to place, secured by a silk tether.
Both their book lungs and the tracheal system are well-developed, as they depend on both systems — bimodal breathing.
In general, jumping spiders can jump at least 15 cm (6 in).
They don't have big legs for jumping because they use blood pressure to jump – muscles in the body contract to squeeze the blood into the legs, which makes the legs snap straight, and thus the jump.
Uroballus are about 3 mm long in both sexes. The cephalothorax is very broad, almost square.
The abdomen is oval, the first pair of legs thick and short with swollen femora.
The other legs are weak.
The spinnerets are very long and thin.
Finder: Wayne Maddison, Beaty Biodiversity Museum, University of British Columbia — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Friday, 23 August, 2002
Indonesia risks losing rain forests
logs on a trailer
The loss of forest also destroys wildlife habitat
Deforestation across the world is still of grave concern to environmentalists.
They warn that rain forests in countries such as Indonesia and Brazil could disappear within 20 years.
Illegal logging is a particular problem in Indonesia, according to Marco Tacconi, an economist at the Centre for International Forestry Research.
He blamed illegal logging primarily not on poverty, but corruption.
It is estimated that two-thirds of all logging in Indonesia is illegal.
Mr Tacconi maintained that people who lived in the forests did not have the financial resources to carryout such an activity.
Indonesian rainforests
Indonesia has about 10% of the world's remaining tropical forests — second only to Brazil
Forest cover fell from 162m ha (400,300,000 acres) in 1950 to 98m ha (242,200,000 acres) in 2000
Nearly 2m ha (4,942,000 acres) are now being destroyed every year
Sources: World Resources Institute, Global Forest Watch, Indonesia
Laws flouted
There are laws against illegal logging but they have little impact.
While the government has introduced curbs on exports, these are believed to have had little effect because much of the timber illegally collected is used domestically.
Mr Tacconi has never heard of anyone being jailed following the prosecution of people caught transporting or exporting logs.
"Everybody knows that the law enforcement is very weak," he said.
The Indonesian government's senior economic policy adviser, Mahendra Singer, admitted the legal process to prosecute the illegal loggers needed to improve.
"I'm not trying to give an excuse," he told the BBC's World Business Report.
"We have to understand the experience as well as the constraints and limitations that the present legal system can do."
He admitted that the government was only just beginning to pass laws which deterred illegal logging.

SPECIAL REPORT
See also:

Probiscus Monkey.

They are good swimmers and use their probiscus as a snorkel.

Their habita is the mangrove trees.

They are fairly large in my estimation.

Photo and caption: AnneAbrams
Probiscus Monkey.
They are good swimmers and use their probiscus as a snorkel.
Their habita is the mangrove trees.
They are fairly large in my estimation.
Photo and caption: AnneAbrams
Cyrtodactylus

The Cyrtodactylus is a genus of Asian geckos, commonly known as bow-fingered geckos.

Usually found in dense rainforest this Cyrtodactylus bent-toed gecko was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

This lizard was climbing on mossy branches in the pouring rain.

This beautiful gecko is potentially new to science known only from a single specimen collected in the dense rainforest at Tualapa in the Strickland River headwaters.

Unlike many geckos it relies on sharp claws instead of large pads to climb high into the forest canopy where it feeds on insects and other arthropods.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Cyrtodactylus
The Cyrtodactylus is a genus of Asian geckos, commonly known as bow-fingered geckos.
Usually found in dense rainforest this Cyrtodactylus bent-toed gecko was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
This lizard was climbing on mossy branches in the pouring rain.
This beautiful gecko is potentially new to science known only from a single specimen collected in the dense rainforest at Tualapa in the Strickland River headwaters.
Unlike many geckos it relies on sharp claws instead of large pads to climb high into the forest canopy where it feeds on insects and other arthropods.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Wednesday, 25 January 2006
Scientists find 'smallest fish'
By Roland Pease
BBC science correspondent
The world's smallest known fish can measure as little as 7.9mm
The world's smallest known fish can measure as little as 7.9mm
Scientists have discovered the smallest known fish on record in the peat swamps of the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
Mature individuals of the Paedocypris genus can be as small as 7.9mm (0.3in) long, researchers write in a journal published by the UK's Royal Society.
But they warn long-term prospects for the fish are poor, because of the rapid destruction of Indonesian peat swamps.
The fish have taken extreme measures to survive in extreme habitats - pools of acid water in a tropical forest swamp.
Food is scarce but the Paedocypris — smaller than other fish by a few tenths of a millimetre — can sustain their small bodies grazing on plankton near the bottom of the water.
small fish against finger
Human threat
To keep their size down, the fish have abandoned many of the attributes of adulthood — a characteristic hinted at in their name.
Their brain, for example, lacks bony protection and the females have room to carry just a handful of eggs.
The males have a little clasp underneath that might help them fertilize eggs individually.
Being so small, the fish can live through even extreme drought, by seeking refuge in the last puddles of the swamp.
But they are now threatened by humans.
Widespread forest destruction, drainage of the peat swamps for palm oil plantations and persistent fires are destroying their habitat.
Science may have discovered Paedocypris just in time — but many of their miniature relatives may already have been wiped out.
Sunset over Lake Toba Northern Sumatra Indonesia

Photo and caption: peterb0
Sunset over Lake Toba Northern Sumatra Indonesia
Photo and caption: peterb0
Nyctimystes

The Nyctimystes is a genus of tree frog in the Hylidae family.

They are principally a Papua New Guinea species but do inhabit islands in the Moluccas and northern Queensland, Australia.

This large and spectacular frog was discovered next to a clear running mountain river.

It was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

All species in this genus have one distinct feature that separates them from other species in the Hylidae genus, the lower eyelid is marked with pattern of lines, veins or dots.

This feature presumably acts as camouflage when the frogs are at rest during the day.

This genus inhabits tropical or subtropical montane rainforest.

Frogs of this genus are found mainly in New Guinea’s montane tropical forests where they lay their eggs under stones in rivers and streams.

The tadpoles have a large sucker-mouths that they use to attach to slippery rocks so they are not swept away

Their body shape is very streamlined with a large tail musculature.

All species of this genus have extensive webbing and large toe discs.

Many of the species in this genus have a relatively small population sizes and not much in known about each species, let alone the genus as a whole.

The eggs are large and are laid on submerged objects in fast flowing creeks and streams — not all species of this genus have been recorded as doing this.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Nyctimystes
The Nyctimystes is a genus of tree frog in the Hylidae family.
They are principally a Papua New Guinea species but do inhabit islands in the Moluccas and northern Queensland, Australia.
This large and spectacular frog was discovered next to a clear running mountain river.
It was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
All species in this genus have one distinct feature that separates them from other species in the Hylidae genus, the lower eyelid is marked with pattern of lines, veins or dots.
This feature presumably acts as camouflage when the frogs are at rest during the day.
This genus inhabits tropical or subtropical montane rainforest.
Frogs of this genus are found mainly in New Guinea’s montane tropical forests where they lay their eggs under stones in rivers and streams.
The tadpoles have a large sucker-mouths that they use to attach to slippery rocks so they are not swept away
Their body shape is very streamlined with a large tail musculature.
All species of this genus have extensive webbing and large toe discs.
Many of the species in this genus have a relatively small population sizes and not much in known about each species, let alone the genus as a whole.
The eggs are large and are laid on submerged objects in fast flowing creeks and streams — not all species of this genus have been recorded as doing this.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Sumatran orangutan.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.
The orangutan — an icon in peril... like so many other species
BBC — Wednesday, 12 September 2007
Gorillas head race to extinction
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.
The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.
The IUCN says there is a lack of political will to tackle the global erosion of nature.
Governments have pledged to stem the loss of species by 2010; but it does not appear to be happening.
"This year's Red List shows that the invaluable efforts made so far to protect species are not enough," said the organisation's director-general, Julia Marton-Lefevre.
"The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing, and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis."
The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing

Julia Marton-Lefevre
One in three amphibians, one in four mammals, one in eight birds and 70% of plants so far assessed are believed to be at risk of extinction, with human alteration of their habitat the single biggest cause.
Critical list
The tone of this year's Red List is depressingly familiar. Of 41,415 species assessed, 16,306 are threatened with extinction to a greater or lesser degree.
The main changes from previous assessments include some of the natural world's iconic animals, such as the western lowland gorilla, which moves from the Endangered to the Critically Endangered category.
Numbers have declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years.
RED LIST DEFINITIONS
Extinct - Surveys suggest last known individual has died
Critically Endangered - Extreme high risk of extinction - this some Critically Endangered species are also tagged Possibly Extinct
Endangered - Species at very high risk of extinction
Vulnerable - Species at high risk of extinction
Near Threatened - May soon move into above categories
Least Concern - Species is widespread and abundant
Data Deficient - not enough data to assess
Forest clearance has allowed hunters access to previously inaccessible areas; and the Ebola virus has followed, wiping out one-third of the total gorilla population in protected areas, and up to 95% in some regions.
Ebola has moved through the western lowland gorilla's rangelands in western central Africa from the southwest to the northeast. If it continues its march, it will reach all the remaining populations within a decade.
The Sumatran orangutan was already Critically Endangered before this assessment, with numbers having fallen by 80% in the last 75 years.
But IUCN has identified new threats to the 7,300 individuals that remain.
Forests are being cleared for palm oil plantations, and habitat is being split up by the building of new roads.
Governments know they are going to fail to reach that target

Jean-Christophe Vie
In Borneo, home to the second orangutan species, palm oil plantations have expanded 10-fold in a decade, and now take up 27,000 sq km of the island.
Illegal logging reduces habitat still further, while another threat comes from hunting for food and the illegal international pet trade.
So fragmented have some parts of the Bornean forest become that some isolated orangutan populations now number less than 50 individuals, which IUCN notes are "apparently not viable in the long term".
Straight to zero
The great apes are perhaps the most charismatic creatures on this year's Red List, but the fact they are in trouble has been known for some years.
Perhaps more surprising are some of the new additions.
Galapagos coral

The first formal assessment of corals shows many are at risk.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: Cleveland P Hickman Jr.
The first formal assessment of corals shows many are at risk
"This is the first time we've assessed corals, and it's a bit worrying because some of them moved straight from being not assessed to being possibly extinct," said Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of IUCN's species programme.
"We know that some species were there in years gone by, but now when we do the assessment they are not there.   And corals are like the trees in the forest; they build the ecosystem for fish and other animals."
IUCN is now embarking on a complete assessment of coral species, and expects to find that about 30% to 40% are threatened.
The most glaring example of a waterborne creature failed by conservation efforts is probably the baiji, the Yangtze river dolphin, which is categorised as Critically Endangered, Possibly Extinct.
This freshwater species appears to have failed in its bid for survival against the destructive tides of fishing, shipping, pollution, and habitat change in its one native river.
Chinese media reported a possible sighting earlier this year, but the IUCN is not convinced; with no confirmed evidence of a living baiji since 2002, they believe its time on Earth may well be over.
Baiji river dolphin.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: Stephen Leatherwood
Last rites for river dolphin
If so, it will have become a largely accidental victim of the various forces of human development.
Not so the spectacular Banggai cardinalfish; a single decade of hunting for the aquarium trade has brought numbers down by an astonishing 90%.
Many African vultures are new entrants on this year's list.
But birds provide the only notable success, with the colourful Mauritius echo parakeet making it back from Critically Endangered to Endangered.
Intensive conservation work has brought numbers up from about 50 to above 300.
But the gharial, a crocodilian found in the major rivers of India and Nepal, provides a cautionary tale of what can happen when conservation money and effort dry up.
A decade ago, a programme of re-introduction to the wild brought the adult population up from about 180 to nearer 430.
Deemed a success, the programme was stopped; numbers are again hovering around 180, and the gharial finds itself once more on the Critically Endangered list.
Female and infant mountain gorilla.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one. 

(Image: WildlifeDirect)
Conservation is not enough
Climate of distraction
IUCN says that it is not too late for many of these species; that they can be brought back from the brink.
It is something that the world's governments have committed to, vowing in the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity "to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level".
"Governments know they are going to fail to reach that target," said Jean-Christophe Vie, "and not just in terms of a few species — the failure is really massive.
"We know that it is possible to reverse the trend, but the causes are so huge and massive and global, and there is still a lack of attention to the crisis that biodiversity faces."
Many in the environmental movement argue that too much money and attention has gone on climate change, with other issues such as biodiversity, clean water and desertification ignored at the political level.
IUCN's assessment is that climate change is important for many Red List species; but it is not the only threat, and not the most important threat.
There are conflicts between addressing the various issues, with biofuels perhaps being the obvious example.
Useful they may turn out to be in reducing greenhouse gas emissions; but many conservationists are seriously concerned that the vast swathes of monoculture they will bring spell dire consequences for creatures such as the orangutan.
Oreophryne frog

The Oreophryne (Cross Frogs) is a genus of microhylid frogs endemic to Southern Philippine, Celebes and the Lesser Sunda Islands, and New Guinea.

The Oreophryne a tiny frog species was discovered in limestone hills.

The Oreophryne are from a group of frogs that are common in the very wet rainforests of New Guinea.

In these saturated environments this Oreophryne and its relatives lay their eggs on the ground or in trees where they hatch directly into tiny froglets, bypassing the tadpole stage.

The Oreophryne has a sharp chirping call.

This photo is taken on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Oreophryne frog
The Oreophryne (Cross Frogs) is a genus of microhylid frogs endemic to Southern Philippine, Celebes and the Lesser Sunda Islands, and New Guinea.
The Oreophryne a tiny frog species was discovered in limestone hills.
The Oreophryne are from a group of frogs that are common in the very wet rainforests of New Guinea.
In these saturated environments this Oreophryne and its relatives lay their eggs on the ground or in trees where they hatch directly into tiny froglets, bypassing the tadpole stage.
The Oreophryne has a sharp chirping call.
This photo is taken on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
 
Wellington's solitary coral under threat of extinction
Galapagos coral under threat of extinction
Litoria frog

The Litoria frog uses a loud ringing song to call for a mate.

Litoria is a genus of Hylidae tree frogs native to Australia, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccan Islands, and Timor.

They are sometimes collectively referred to as Australiasian treefrogs.

They are distinguishable from other tree frogs by the presence of horizontal irises, no pigmentation of the eye lid and their Wallacean distribution. 

Several new species are described every year on average, by 2010 the number of known species is likely to exceed 150.

This frog was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.

Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
Litoria frog
The Litoria frog uses a loud ringing song to call for a mate.
Litoria is a genus of Hylidae tree frogs native to Australia, the Bismarck Archipelago, the Solomon Islands, New Guinea, the Lesser Sunda Islands, the Moluccan Islands, and Timor.
They are sometimes collectively referred to as Australiasian treefrogs.
They are distinguishable from other tree frogs by the presence of horizontal irises, no pigmentation of the eye lid and their Wallacean distribution.
Several new species are described every year on average, by 2010 the number of known species is likely to exceed 150.
This frog was found on a RAP survey, at the headwaters of the Strickland River, in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.
Finder: Steve Richards, South Australian Museum — July 2008
Details: Conservation International
BBC — Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Rare river dolphin 'now extinct'
Baiji river dolphin.

An extensive survey of its habitat failed to find any sign of the baiji

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: Stephen Leatherwood
An extensive survey of its habitat failed to find any sign of the baiji
A freshwater dolphin found only in China is now "likely to be extinct", a team of scientists has concluded.
The researchers failed to spot any Yangtze river dolphins, also known as baijis, during an extensive six-week survey of the mammals' habitat.
The team, writing in Biology Letters journal, blamed unregulated fishing as the main reason behind their demise.
If confirmed, it would be the first extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years.
The World Conservation Union's Red List of Threaten Species currently classifies the creature as "critically endangered".
Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), one of the paper's co-authors, described the findings as a "shocking tragedy".
"The Yangtze river dolphin was a remarkable mammal that separated from all other species over 20 million years ago," Dr Turvey explained.
"This extinction represents the disappearance of a complete branch of the evolutionary tree of life and emphasises that we have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet."
'Incidental impact'
The species (Lipotes vexillifer) was the only remaining member of the Lipotidae, an ancient mammal family that is understood to have separated from other marine mammals, including whales, dolphins and porpoises, about 40-20 million years ago.
We have yet to take full responsibility in our role as guardians of the planet
Dr Sam Turvey,
Zoological Society of London
The white, freshwater dolphin had a long, narrow beak and low dorsal fin; lived in groups of three or four and fed on fish.
The team carried out six-week visual and acoustic survey, using two research vessels, in November and December 2006.
"While it is conceivable that a couple of surviving individuals were missed by the survey teams," the team wrote, "our inability to detect any baiji despite this intensive search effort indicates that the prospect of finding and translocating them to a [reserve] has all but vanished."
The scientists added that there were a number of human activities that caused baiji numbers to decline, including construction of dams and boat collisions.
"However, the primary factor was probably unsustainable by-catch in local fisheries, which used rolling hooks, nets and electrofishing," they suggested.
"Unlike most historical-era extinctions of large bodied animals, the baiji was the victim not of active persecution but incidental mortality resulting from massive-scale human environmental impacts - primarily uncontrolled and unselective fishing," the researchers concluded.
 
Gharial crocodile under threat of extinction
BBC — Monday, 10 September 2007
Conservation alone 'is not enough'
Richard Leakey
VIEWPOINT
Richard Leakey
Ahead of Wednesday's publication of the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species, Dr Richard Leakey argues that conservation alone cannot save threatened species such as the mountain gorilla.
In this week's Green Room, he calls for action on humans' needs as well.
Rangers standing next to the four dead gorillas

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

(Image: Altor IGCP Goma)
These deaths were repulsive for the fact that the gorilla corpses served no use to the killers
 Millions of people were horrified by the recent slaughter of mountain gorillas that dominated headlines for the inhumanity that seems to cling to this corner of the world.
In the space of a month, nine gorillas — more than 1% of the known population of these charismatic relatives of ours — were wiped out.
All were from the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) Virunga National Park.
Predictably, the slaughter drew an outraged response.
Wildlife conservation organisations leapt into action and began raising funds to deal with it, and a crisis team went in on the ground.
In the following four weeks, peoples' compulsion to do something to save the species produced donations amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.
Living at the epicentre of the bloodiest conflict since the Second World War, the mountain gorillas share their habitat with heavily armed militia.
In other lawless regions, where wild meat comes into contact with hungry gunmen, species are slaughtered for food, or for trophies to be traded for cash and weapons.
But these deaths were repulsive for the fact that the gorilla corpses served no use to the killers.
On the contrary, it is the very presence of mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park that threatens them, for the animals draw attention to an area that unscrupulous people would rather have us forget.
Fuelling conflicts
At the heart of the crisis is charcoal — the main form of household energy in Africa.
And making charcoal means felling forests, destroying wildlife habitats, damaging ecosystem services such as water catchments and soil fertility.
Gorilla protection rangers.

Wildlife protection rangers earn just $5 a month for risking their lives.

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

Image: (Image: WildlifeDirect)
Wildlife protection rangers earn just $5 a month for risking their lives
Charcoal production has been going on for millennia, but recent events in eastern DRC have led to a sharp escalation in demand.
In neighbouring Rwanda, an enormous human population has stripped almost all its indigenous forests bare; while in the Congolese border town of Goma, refugees fleeing the region's crises have swelled the population to more than half a million.
Together, they've created an insatiable demand for charcoal worth an estimated $30m (£15m) a year.
To save Rwanda's few remaining forests and the gorillas that have become a major source of tourist revenue, President Paul Kagame has installed a surprisingly efficient and effective ban on charcoal production.
Ironically, however, that has driven the black industry across the border into DRC, threatening the habitats of the very same gorillas in the park which straddles both countries.
Given the lack of any form of effective government in eastern Congo, and the ludicrously small government salaries - a ranger earns about $5 (£2.50) per month - it is not surprising that the parks' forests have become a commons and virtually everybody is involved in the scramble for resources, from peasants to high ranking government officials and rebel militia.
If gorillas focus unwelcome global attention on the park, it is hardly surprising that those getting rich on charcoal will want to remove that attention by getting rid of one of our closest biological relatives.
As shocking as the gorilla executions were, this is fundamentally a human tragedy, with very human solutions.
There must be alternative sources of energy to meet the demand in both Rwanda and eastern Congo. There must be a return to the rule of law in DRC, where the forests are saved for the long term good of all, rather than looted for the short term riches of a few.
In it together
Although it seems to be a very local problem, we all have an interest in protecting the forests.
Rainforest

Gorillas, orangutans, and corals are among the plants and animals which are sliding closer to extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species for 2007 names habitat loss, hunting and climate change among the causes.

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has identified more than 16,000 species threatened with extinction, while prospects have brightened for only one.

BBC
It will take a focused global initiative to end the conflict, introduce alternative sources of household fuel, and create alternative livelihoods
Not only do we risk losing one of the most charismatic and important species on Earth, but we are in danger of doing more damage to the world's warming climate.
In that respect, the forests' destruction is a double whammy.
Burning charcoal is one of the greatest sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide, but it also strips away the trees that otherwise soak up so much of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
While the alarm has been raised by conservation organisations concerned about gorillas, and the global public has responded, it is clear that the problem is much greater than one of conservation alone.
This is a human development crisis and it will take a focused global initiative to end the conflict, introduce alternative sources of household fuel, and create alternative livelihoods for the population living in eastern Kivu.
If the underlying demand for charcoal is ignored and we focus too much on the gorillas alone, we will not only see the extermination of the mountain gorillas, but the forests, woodlands and all the unique species that inhabit this biologically diverse landscape.
We will also lose the climate mitigation services that the intact forests provide.
In the end, we could see a human crisis that will dwarf the tragedy of nine gorillas.
Dr Richard Leakey is the founding chairman of WildlifeDirect, a former head of the Kenyan Wildlife Service and a leading palaeontologist
 
Banggai cardinalfish under threat from overfishing
Humphead parrotfish victim of overfishing
Until recently, for example, the Jakobshavn glacier, Greenland's largest, was shrinking 3 miles per year.
But since 2002, it's been shedding up to 6 miles of ice per year, said Eric Rignot, an ice-sheet expert at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Santa Maria del Pinar, near Guadalajara.

Trees burn by the village of Santa Maria del Pinar, near Guadalajara, on one front of a raging forest fire, July 2005.

Emergency workers evacuated the bodies of 11 volunteer firefighters who died at the weekend in a massive forest fire in central Spain, the deadliest such blaze in more than 10 years.

The fire, which began in pine woodland at Cueva de los Casares on Saturday, has destroyed up to 12,000 hectares.

Photo: AFP/Pedro Armestre

In the past three years, Portugal has lost 870,000 hectares (2,149,817 acres) of forest to fires.    (August 2006)
In northern Portugal, residents of Valongo, near Porto, were reported to be very frightened as flames were approaching their houses.
Forest fires have been burning in Spain and Portugal, which like the rest of Europe is again suffering from drought, a continuation of drought of three years, leaving the countrysides like tinderboxes.

A record loss of sea ice in the Arctic summer 2005 has convinced scientists that the northern hemisphere may have crossed a critical threshold beyond which the climate may never recover.

Scientists fear that the Arctic has now entered an irreversible phase of warming which will accelerate the loss of the polar sea ice that has helped to keep the climate stable for thousands of years.
Dr Serreze: "This will be four Septembers in a row that we've seen a downward trend.  The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover."
Professor Wadhams: "As the sea ice melts, and more of the sun's energy is absorbed by the exposed ocean, a positive feedback is created leading to the loss of yet more ice."
"If anything we may be underestimating the dangers.  The computer models may not take into account collaborative positive feedback."
"Sea ice keeps a cap on frigid water, keeping it cold and protecting it from heating up."
"Losing the sea ice of the Arctic is likely to have major repercussions for the climate."
"There could be dramatic changes to the climate of the northern region due to the creation of a vast expanse of open water where there was once effectively land."
"You're essentially changing land into ocean and the creation of a huge area of open ocean where there was once land will have a very big impact on other climate parameters."

Friday, 27 June, 2003
Amazon destruction speeds up
Logging in the rainforest.

An area the size of Haiti has been lost to farming over 12 months
An area the size of Haiti has been lost to farming over 12 months
New satellite information from Brazil has revealed a sharp increase in the rate of destruction of the Amazonian rainforest.
The information shows the speed of deforestation increased by 40% between 2001 and 2002 to reach its highest rate since 1995.
Figures from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show more than 25,000 square kilometres of forest were cleared in a year — mainly for farming.
Environmentalists have expressed alarm at the development which represents a sharp reversal of a trend in which destruction had been slowing.
"The rate of deforestation should be falling, instead the opposite is happening," said Mario Monzoni, a project co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth in Brazil.
AMAZON DEFORESTATION
2002: 9,840 square miles (25,476 sq km) lost
2001: 7,010 square miles (18,166 sq km) lost
Environmental organisations say one major cause is the spread of large-scale soya farming in the southern Amazon.
Soya production is growing rapidly in the area as a crop that offers large profits for farmers and gives a sizable boost to Brazil's trade accounts.
But campaigners also blame the authorities for failing to enforce environmental protection laws.
The country's centre-left government, under the leadership of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, is due to announce new proposals next week to tackle deforestation.
Task ahead
View from the air

The images show the progression of deforestation in Rondonia, southern Brazil.

Tree-clearing has begun in the 1985 photo, in a typical herringbone pattern fanning out from roads and rivers.

By 1992 it is much more advanced and the town in the centre of the image has grown.

Photo: Images courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.
The images show the progression of deforestation in Rondonia, southern Brazil.
Tree-clearing has begun in the 1985 photo, in a typical herringbone pattern fanning out from roads and rivers.
By 1992 it is much more advanced and the town in the centre of the image has grown.
The new Environment Minister, Marina da Silva, who has long campaigned to protect the Amazon, has promised to action but she inherits a difficult situation, says the BBC's Sao Paulo correspondent Tom Gibb.
On the one hand, the country has a new multi-million dollar satellite and radar monitoring system providing plenty of accurate data as to where deforestation is occurring.
But budget cuts on the ground mean that environmental protection agents often do not even have enough money to buy petrol for their boats and cars, let alone mount operations to arrest illegal loggers and farmers, our correspondent says.
Likewise, loopholes and corruption in Brazil's chaotic judicial system mean those caught destroying the forest almost always go unpunished.
The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and is home to 30% of all animal and plant life on the planet.
In the last 15 years, 243,000 square kilometres have been deforested, the equivalent of 5% of the Brazilian Amazon.
25 June, 2001
Amazon forest 'could vanish fast'
Amazon otter on log 

The giant Amazon otter is one species that depends on the forest

Photo:BBC
The giant Amazon otter is one species that depends on the forest
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest could be irreversible within a decade, according to a US scientist.
James Alcock, of Pennsylvania State University, says the forest could virtually disappear within half a century.
His estimate of the possible rate of destruction is faster than most others and Mr Alcock, professor of environmental sciences at Penn State's Abington College, says the danger lies in a complex feedback process.
Research published in the journal Science earlier this year suggesting that deforestation rates in the Amazon could reach 42% by 2020 were based on unreliable facts and "ecological futurology", Brazil's science and technology ministry said.
Point of no return
But Professor Alcock's forecast, based on a mathematical model of human-driven deforestation, is starker still.
Without immediate and forceful action to change current agricultural, mining and logging practices, he says, the forest could pass the point of no return in 10 to 15 years.
Boat on Amazon — Photo: BBC
Human pressures on the forest are growing
And the model indicates that the forest, far from having 75 or 100 years to reach total collapse as other researchers predict, could essentially disappear within 40 or 50 years.
Professor Alcock is presenting his findings at a conference in Scotland being held jointly by the Geology Societies of America and London.
He hopes to develop his research with fieldwork in the Amazon, although he argues that his model is also a useful predictor of what could happen in the other great tropical forest systems, in south east Asia and the Congo river basin in Africa.
Professor Alcock, who says the size of the Amazon river basin has already been reduced by about 25%, believes the threat lies in a process known as evapotranspiration, in which the rain that falls on a forest is retained and then returned to the atmosphere.
But without a healthy vegetation base, he says, there is little to stop the water running off, and this creates the potential for a highly unstable forest system.
Risks are close
"Because of the way tropical rainforests work, they are dependent on trees to return water to the air", he said.
"This interdependence of climate and forest means risks to the forests are much closer at hand than we might expect.
"It's a very difficult problem because of several pressures. For example, you can't say: 'Leave the rainforests alone' when people are living in poverty."
Deforested land — Photo: BBC
Forest loss leaves little in its wake
Professor Alcock says plans to preserve small areas of forest would probably not work, because damage to the overall system would limit the rain necessary for their survival.
Less rain falling on the forest could also increase the likelihood of fires.
Another consequence he foresees is the extinction of many creatures that depend on the forest for survival.
Professor Alcock said: "There are already a large number of species that are endangered, because the forest itself is endangered.
Estimates 'exaggerated'
"We might be able to keep a few animals at the zoos, but we'd surely lose a lot of amphibians, reptiles and insects."
However, Philip Stott, professor of biogeography at the University of London, UK, told BBC News Online: "This model sounds to me to be highly simplistic in political, economic and ecological terms.
"Many scientists believe that deforestation estimates are greatly exaggerated, and that in the Amazon 87% may still be intact — perhaps more.
"There's always a lot of secondary regeneration, and you'd have to take that into account in any modelling."
15 May, 2001
Amazon destruction surges
Workers in the Amazon
Workers in the Amazon
The destruction of Brazil's Amazon rainforest jumped to a five-year high last year, alarming environmentalists and embarrassing the Brazilian Government.
The government had hoped that forest clearance was decreasing, but satellite images analysed by its Space Research Institute reveal that between 1999 and 2000, almost 20,000 sq km were cleared.
This creates a hole about the size of Belgium, and is a 15% increase on the previous year.
The secretary for Amazon affairs for the Environmental Ministry, Mary Allegretti, blamed the increased deforestation on an improved economic climate.
Demand for land
Rainforest destruction
Rainforest destruction
If the Amazon disappears, much of the planet's wildlife will lose its habitat
An unexpectedly healthy recovery from Brazil's recession, following the devaluation of its currency in January 1999, sparked more demand for timber and land.
Ms Allegretti said the rain forest was cut down by logging companies and farmers in search of land.
Independent research institutes forecast that if the government continues with its road building and farming programmes in the Amazon region, up to 40% of the total rainforest will be destroyed within 20 years.
Environmentalists say action needs to be taken to reverse the unsustainable destruction of the Amazon, which is home to up to 30% of the world's animal and plant life.
"The beginning of the new millennium could not have been worse for the Amazon, the figures are worrying if we look to the future," said the World Wildlife Fund in a statement.
Ms Allegretti said the government would introduce a licensing system for properties where deforestation was worst.
Government action
Brazilian police chase landless rural workers in the Amazon city of Belem, north of San Paulo
Brazilian police chase landless rural workers in the Amazon city of Belem, north of San Paulo
Brazilian police clash with the Landless Rural Workers movement
But our correspondent Jan Rocha says that within the next two weeks a controversial bill which would allow Amazon farmers to legally clear much greater areas of forest will be debated in Congress.
The bill is supported by farmers and opposed by environmentalists, she says.
The government is also considering building more energy plants in the area, as the country is suffering from a chronic energy shortage.
In 1970, about 99% of the Amazon, which is sometimes termed the "lungs of the planet", due to the huge amounts of oxygen produced by its trees, was still standing.
WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Tom Gibb
"Despite tough laws, illegal logging has continued"



SEE ALSO:
Brazil's unsustainable Amazon scheme
14 Aug 02 | Americas
Brazil's rainforest slaves
30 Jul 02 | Crossing Continents
Brazil spies on Amazon loggers
25 Jul 02 | Americas
Amazon destruction rate 'falls'
12 Jun 02 | Americas
Monday, 4 March, 2002
Mexico's 'devastating' forest loss
By Nick Miles
BBC Central America and Caribbean correspondent
Lacandon jungle

Scars on Mexico's forests can be seen from the air
Scars on Mexico's forests can be seen from the air
Deforestation — which environmentalists say is one of the most pressing concerns affecting the planet — will top the agenda at a United Nations meeting of environment ministers in New York on Monday.
Mexico is one of the world's worst affected countries. Depletion of forest cover is taking place twice as fast than previously thought, with more than one million hectares being lost each year.
A number of initiatives to resolve the problem — including the eviction of illegal settlers from protected forest land — have been announced by President Vicente Fox.
But environmentalists say the settlers are just a scapegoat and the government is ignoring the real problem, illegal wood cutting.
According to a recently published government report, Mexico now has the second fastest rate of deforestation in the world, second only to Brazil.
Nowhere is the deforestation worse than in the southern state of Chiapas.

The forests around the town have been devastated by small scale logging

Ryan Zinn, development worker
In the south east corner of Chiapas lies the Lacandon jungle, a million hectares of, until recently, pristine tropical forest.
It's one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet home to rare parrots, jaguars and hundreds of species of hardwood trees.
From the air the damage caused by logging and illegal farming settlements is plain to see. The light coloured maize fields form a patchwork amongst the bottle green expanse of tropical forest.
"The farmers here have no right to the land, it is a reserve," state government forestry advisor Hernan Alfonzo told me as we come in to land at a small airstrip cut out of the jungle
"It's not just the land they grow crops on that's lost," he said. "Thousands of hectares of forest go up in smoke every year as the fires they light to clear their land rage out of control."
Suspicion
Parrot
The jungle is in an area of high biodiversity
Landing at the hamlet of San Gregorio we are greeted with understandable suspicion by the inhabitants.
San Gregorio is home to 50 families.
Until 20 years ago they were farm labourers working in the north of the state, but they lost their jobs when much of the area was turned over to cattle raising and their labour was no longer needed.
"The people here are threatened by the government with eviction all the time," said Antonio Jimenez, who heads an organisation representing the forest farmers.
"They literally have nowhere else to go, and they don't create the environmental havoc the government says they do, they protect the environment, it's in their interests to do so," he added.
The claim is backed up by environmentalists working in the area.
"The farmers here are cultivating in a sustainable way," said botanist Miguel Angel Garcia.
"They no longer need to destroy more and more of the forest because their fields remain productive."
'Smokescreen'
There is a growing body of opinion that the government's focus on removing the settlers from their land is simply a smokescreen deflecting attention from the widespread illegal logging going on across the country.
Development worker Ryan Zinn working near the town of San Cristobal has been studying the problem.
"The forests around the town have been devastated by small scale logging concessions," he told me, as we stood in a recently cut area of the forest.
"The municipal governments hand out permits illegally to local consortia.
In many cases what we see are not huge logging companies but the middle men of the intermediaries who are causing much of the deforestation," Mr Zinn said.
Huge task
It's a problem the federal government acknowledges.
"We're working to bring an end to the corruption," said Hernan Alfonzo.
"Corruption has been endemic amongst officials because of the low salaries of the inspectors and the big profits to be made.
Logs

Illegal logging is on the increase
Illegal logging is on the increase
"We're now putting in place teams of new inspectors to check all the wood leaving the state," he added.
This, however is a massive task. The agency has just a hundred inspectors having to cover an area of about a hundred thousand square miles.
Even if the will to protect the environment in this part of southern Mexico is there, the finance to bring about change is lagging far behind.
See also:

 
Thursday, 24 January 2008
Brazil sees record deforestation
Aerial view of deforestation in Brazil, picture by Greenpeace

The Amazon has long been known as the 'lungs of the world'
The Amazon has long been known as the "lungs of the world"
The Brazilian government has announced a record rate of deforestation in the Amazon, months after celebrating its success in achieving a reduction.
In the last five months of 2007, 3,000 sq km (1,250 sq miles) were lost.
Gilberto Camara, whose National Institute of Space Research provides satellite imaging of the Amazon, said the figure was unprecedented.
"We've never before detected such a high deforestation rate at this time of year," he said.
His concern, outlined during a press conference in Brasilia on Wednesday, was echoed by Environment Minister Marina Silva.
Soya expensive
Ms Silva said the rise in the price of commodities such as soya could have influenced the rate of forest clearing, as more and more farmers saw the Amazon as a source of cheap land.
"The economic reality of these states indicate that these activities impact, without a shadow of a doubt, on the forest," she said.
The state of Mato Grosso was the worst affected, contributing more than half the total area of forest stripped, or 1,786 sq km (700 sq miles).
President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to attend an emergency meeting on the issue.
The rise in deforestation will be an embarrassment for the Brazilian president, who last year said his government's efforts to control illegal logging and introduce better certification of land ownership had helped reduce forest clearance significantly.
Even as he celebrated the success, though, environmentalists were warning that the rate was rising again.
The situation may also be worse than reported, with the environment ministry saying the preliminary assessment of the amount of forest cleared could double as more detailed satellite images are analysed.
MMVIII
Extreme drought in Amazon rainforest linked to deforestation and climate change
The trouble has been that while traditional aerial images can show areas that have been completely destroyed, they do not reveal selective logging of valuable trees such as mahogany.
Brazilian officials praised the scientists for highlighting the issue of selective logging, but said the new figures were hard to believe.
     Clock ticking for Indonesian rainforest       
     Deforestation across the world     
       Amazon 'stealth' logging revealed    
 
 
 
 
 
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