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Friday, 28 January, 2000, 00:42 GMT
'Grim future' for Europe's wildlife

brown bear The brown bear, one of ten species WWF says are endangered

By Environment Correspondent Alex Kirby

Many European species are under threat across the continent, says UK conservation group the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

A report, Species Alert! Natura 2000: A last chance to European biodiversity, lists 10 species which it says are in decline in most European Union countries:

  • Iberian lynx
  • brown bear
  • harbour porpoise
  • monk seal
  • loggerhead turtle
  • a freshwater mussel
  • Atlantic salmon
  • marsh fritillary butterfly
  • lady's slipper orchid
  • corncrake.
WWF says the10 species "provide a snapshot of a bleak picture for wildlife across Europe. Research suggests there are fewer than 650 Iberian lynx left in the wild. Monk seal numbers are estimated at about 500".

It says the distribution of the marsh fritillary in the UK has shrunk by 50-75% over the last 25 years.

corncrake Corncrake numbers have fallen steeply
For some species, like the freshwater mussel, habitat pressure and pollution are the problems. Intensive agriculture is putting pressure on the corncrake and the marsh fritillary, and the harbour porpoise is sometimes caught in fishing nets.

WWF says European governments should implement the EU's habitats directive and designate special areas of conservation (SACs) to protect all the species at risk.

No EU country has so far met the directive's requirements on SACs, although they should have done so by 1995.

Approaching deadline

The European Commission has begun legal action against the UK and several other EU governments for failing to designate enough SACs.

Rebecca May of WWF told BBC News Online: "Those governments need to get cracking and submit their lists of proposed sites by about June this year."

"There is not an unlimited time allowed under the directive for designating SACs, and the meeting to decide which will be approved is being held in October.

"It's in that sense that we are saying this is the last chance for the 10 species. The October meeting will be the last opportunity to designate the sites.

"If that doesn't happen, the future of these species could be a grim one."

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See also:
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