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Last Updated: Monday, 9 February, 2004, 06:49 GMT
Rich 'appalling' on conservation
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Two hyacinth macaws   rspb-images.com
Hyacinth macaw: In the dodo's footsteps? (Image: rspb-images.com)
The world's wealthy countries will need to pay more to save threatened species from extinction, conservationists say.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a UK group, says international cooperation on a large scale will be essential to conserve many vital areas.

The RSPB says $25bn a year more will be needed to establish a proper working system of protected areas for wildlife.

It says the developed countries' record is "appalling", and believes they are just dragging their feet on the issue.

On the way out

The RSPB is launching its criticism at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which runs from 9 to 20 February.

Unless the developing world is properly supported by richer countries, it says, their wildlife will follow the dodo, the mammoth and the great auk into oblivion.

The RSPB is demanding that all countries fulfil their legal obligations to pay for conservation in developing nations, supporting both wildlife and the people who live closest to it.

Species on the edge:
Some of the animals, plants and birds at risk of extinction

It wants a working group on finance made up of governments and non-government organisations to ensure that funding pledges are kept and a detailed plan worked out to protect valuable areas.

The RSPB says: "Deserts, inland lakes, temperate grasslands and marine areas are amongst the highest priorities.

"Less than 1% of the world's seas are protected, and 88% of coral reefs in south-east Asia - important habitats for fish and unique species such as the cone snail - are threatened by human activity."

Alistair Gammell, director of international operations at the RSPB, said: "Only a major international effort to protect these crucial areas on which our remaining wildlife depends will save some of the world's most cherished natural habitats.

"We know... climate change poses a huge extinction risk to more than a million species... If we do not take the measures needed to provide these areas, we will be guilty of neglect on a huge scale."

Huge returns

The Convention on Biological Diversity commits developed countries to helping to fund conservation in poorer ones.

The 2003 World Parks Congress said $25bn of additional support would be needed every year to set up and maintain an effective global system of protected areas.

Great Indian bustard   Asad Rahmani
Fewer than 1,000 great Indian bustards survive (Image: Asad Rahmani)
A study led by the RSPB and Cambridge University, UK, estimated that a global network of protected areas could deliver goods and services worth between $4400bn and $5200bn annually.

The Centre for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University, US, is leading a study entitled Biodiversity: Its Importance to Human Health, investigating the links between the two.

The RSPB says investment in protected area management worldwide has been estimated at around $6bn annually, with investment in developing country protected areas well under $1bn.

Looking the other way

The convention's own budget is $12-13m a year. The RSPB says governments are simply avoiding talking about who should pay how much and when, but it believes this should be the top priority in Kuala Lumpur.

Alistair Gammell told BBC News Online: "It's appalling. All the rich countries are foot-dragging: they are not giving money for conservation.

"The UK is probably worse than most. It provides money through the Darwin Initiative, about 6m ($11.1m), and that's almost the end of it."

Climate risk 'to million species'
07 Jan 04  |  Science/Nature
Rich 'must pay to save nature'
21 May 03  |  Science/Nature
Wake-up call on extinction wave
19 May 03  |  Science/Nature


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