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Wednesday, 5 June, 2002, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Europe's wolf and bear haven 'threatened'
Brown bears in the Carpathians. © P. Weimann/WWF-A
The mountains are rich in rare animals and plants
Wildlife havens in the Carpathian mountains of central Europe are being threatened by logging and pollution, the conservation charity WWF has warned.

The mountains - straddling seven European countries - boast wildlife including brown bears, wolves, lynx and bison.

Piatra Craiului mountin in winter © Radu Mot
The WWF wants to boost ecotourism
There are also 481 plant species which grow nowhere else in the world, and rare birds including the imperial eagle.

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But now the charity claims the habitat is under threat, as pollution, deforestation and hunting take their toll.

And the situation could be made even worse when some of the countries join the European Union.

The Common Agriculture Policy, it warns, could encourage detrimental farming in the region, and European membership could also mean the building of new roads.

The smallest European Owl - Pygmy Owl.  ©Fero Bednar
The pygmy owl is among the forests' rare birds
Poverty is also having an impact, as living standards in already poor rural areas have plunged still further after the collapse of communism, forcing further exploitation of the mountains and their resources.

The warning comes after the WWF carried out what it called its first overall environmental survey of the mountain range.

The charity wants new policies including:

  • boosting the protected areas within the Carpathians
  • supporting local sustainable economic activities such as small-scale farming and ecotourism
  • managing the mountain forests better - a commitment already given by the Romanians
  • reforming EU policies which could worsen the situation
  • developing an international legal mechanism, such as a proposed Carpathian Convention signed by Carpathian countries.

The report, released to coincide with World Environment Day, says public and political awareness about the mountains' threats remains too low.

"We want to get the Carpathians on to the international map and policy agenda," said Philip Weller of the WWF.

"Only then can its natural riches and centuries-old traditions be saved," he added.

The mountains stretch across hundreds of miles of Europe, taking in Romania, Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Austria.

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See also:

09 May 00 | Science/Nature
11 Nov 99 | Science/Nature
27 Jul 99 | Science/Nature
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