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Last Updated: Friday, 21 May, 2004, 23:51 GMT 00:51 UK
World 'ignores extinction threat'
Loggers in the Amazon
Deforestation is threatening biodiversity, RSPB says
Countries are failing to protect thousands of species threatened by extinction, environmentalists say.

Only nine countries were marking International Biodiversity Day on Saturday, to the dismay of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

It called on the government to do more, including fulfilling pledges to set up a network of wildlife sites.

The benefits of biodiversity for human health should also be emphasised, particularly in developing countries.

The society said about 80% of people rely on traditional medicines, mainly plants, for basic healthcare.

It wants high-ranking politicians, particularly Treasury officials, to attend the biannual meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity signed in Rio in 1992.

If pledges are not fulfilled and conservation action delayed, many species will vanish
Alastair Gammell

"Governments agree that wildlife rich areas should be protected but their reluctance to pay for them suggests they don't really care," said the society's director of international operations Alastair Gammell.

"If pledges are not fulfilled and conservation action delayed, many species will vanish.

"The escalating rate at which animals are disappearing is horrific and unless governments act quickly, they will deprive future generations of the rich array of wildlife we enjoy."

The RSPB said mining, deforestation, drainage and oil extraction were potentially damaging many locations that were crucial for wildlife.

First world threat

Many such sites in developing countries suffered from a lack of money as funds were prioritised for human needs, but the society said biodiversity and local economies could thrive together.

However, extinction was threatening animals and plants in first world countries.

In the UK, construction, intensive farming and climate change threatened habitats, forcing wildlife out.

Joy Hyvarinen, the RSPB's international treaties advisor said: "It has been all words and little action from politicians for the 12 years of the Convention of Biological Diversity.

"If biodiversity is not taken seriously at high levels our most lasting legacy will be a colourless and lifeless world."

The 2004 International Biodiversity Day theme is food, water and health for all.

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