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"Jaws" Wins Tough New Protection from Human Predators

Nations Agree to Conserve Scores of Species from the Great White to a Blind Dolphin

Nations Agree to Conserve Scores of Species from the Great White to a Blind Dolphin

Nairobi, 25 September 2002 - The Great White Shark of "Jaws" fame, as well as a highly endangered, hairy-kneed, camel and the blind River Dolphin, are among several rare and threatened animals which have won tough new protection at an international wildlife meeting.

Nations, attending the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) tri-annual conference, also backed priority Appendix I listing for three species of whale -the Fin, Sei and Sperm whales. The same species also secured Appendix II listings which will confer additional conservation benefits. A further three whale species- the Antarctic minke, the Bryde's and the Pygmy Right-were placed on Appendix II of the convention too. The decisions mean that a new, regional, agreement, is likely to emerge in the South Pacific giving greater protection for all six species of whale and their habitats, breeding grounds and migration routes.

Meanwhile delegates also backed plans to protect birds and other migratory species from power lines and wind turbines following proposals by Germany. There has been increasing concern that large numbers of birds are being electrocuted across the globe during their annual migrations because many power lines have been strung and constructed across their "flyways". The resolution urges countries to adopt bird-friendly techniques when constructing medium-voltage power lines and to investigate installing bird-friendly kit including the erection of so called "bird-safe poles" to reduce mortalities from existing ones.

The growing popularity of wind power across the world presents a new, potential threat, to migratory birds. Delegates approved a resolution requiring countries to study the impacts of both offshore and onshore wind farms which, it is believed, could benefit not only birds but migratory marine mammals such as dolphins, porpoises and whales. Delegates also supported a campaign, spearheaded by the Prince of Wales and BirdLife International, to reduce the huge losses of albatrosses and petrels to long line fisheries. More than 300,000 seabirds, of which 100,000 are albatrosses, are thought to be dying annually after drowning on baited hooks set to catch fish such as the Patagonian Toothfish of the Southern seas.

The Prince urged delegates to support the ratification of an Agreement on Albatrosses and Petrels so that it can come into force as soon as possible. Arnulf Muller-Helmbrecht, Executive Secretary of the CMS which is a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) linked convention, said: " The Prince's intervention was well received. We will be writing to all countries with albatross populations and nations with long line fleets urging them to come on board. I will also be writing to Klaus Toepfer, the Executive Director of UNEP, asking him to raise the issue when he meets ministers over the coming months. I am now convinced that we will get the necessary ratifications by countries for this Agreement to come into force, hopefully, by early next year. The only real question now, is how many more nations will join this vital conservation effort".

Mr Toepfer welcomed the outcome of the meeting: " Conserving the rich, wealth and range, of wildlife is vital for conserving the health of the planet. Animals and plants, from the humblest to the highest, all have their role to play in making the ecosystems and habitats upon which we all depend, tick. They also have great psychological and cultural importance for humankind whether it be the romance of the whales or the charming chatter of the birds. They link to our past and our present through literature, music and art. The future will be a poorer, bleaker, place without a vibrant, plentiful, natural world".

The conference, which opened on September 18, assessed the situation of 36 species. Countries agreed that the Great White Shark was now so endangered that it should be listed under Appendix I as well as Appendix II of the convention. The priority, Appendix I listing, means that all countries with Great White Shark populations are legally required to protect them from poaching and being caught in fishing nets. Great Whites are found in many waters across the world including the Pacific and the Mediterranean.

Three, fragmented, populations of a curious kind of camel which some experts suspect may be an entirely new species, have also been given priority protection. The camel, which numbers less than a 1,000 individuals and thus is rarer than the Giant Panda, lives in Mongolia and China. Its uniqueness has emerged from a 1999, UNEP-backed expedition funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), where scientists discovered a small population in a lost land of salty sand dunes on the edge of the Tibetan mountains. The fact that these animals, living in a former nuclear test zone, were able to survive on salt water bubbling up from beneath the dunes has led experts to conclude that they may be unique. The listing will boost efforts to protect the animals from poachers and illegal miners as well as intensify efforts to conserve their habitats and migration routes.

The Ganges and Indus River Dolphin, found in the rivers of countries including India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, also secured the priority listing. The dolphins, which are considered blind but able to navigate and feed using their sophisticated biological sonar systems, are threatened by pollution and dam building.

The Saiga antelope of the Eurasian steppes, a once abundant mammal which is under intense pressure from hunting for its horn and flesh, has secured an Appendix II listing. Robert Hepworth, Deputy Director of UNEP's Division of Environmental Conventions, said:" This is welcome news. The level of hunting pressure on these animals has now gone far beyond what the populations can sustain. The new listing will require countries with these antelopes to begin working together to conserve the remaining animals". Mr Muller-Helmbrecht added that he must complement Norway for its actions at the conference. Norway objected to the new listings for several species including the six whale species. "However, in keeping with the spirit of the CMS, Norway said they would accept the consensus view and not put the listings to a vote," said Mr Muller-Helmbrecht.

 

For More Information, and to request articles on some of the key animals concerned, Please Contact: Eric Falt, UNEP Spokesperson/Director of the Division of Communications and Public Information, on Tel: 254 2 623292, E-Mail: eric.falt@unep.org or Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media, on Tel: 254 2 623084, Mobile: 254 (0) 733 632755, E-Mail: nick.nuttall@unep.org In Bonn, Veronika Lenarz, Information Assistant, Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), on Tel: 49 228 815 2409, E-Mail: vlenarz@cms.unep.de

UNEP News Release 2002/68

Wednesday 25 Sep 2002
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