- CAPE TOWN, South Africa
(ENS) - Elephants are vanishing from western and central Africa.
- Sturgeons are in dramatic decline because of over-exploitation
for their roe which is sold for high prices as caviar, and also due to
pollution of their river and coastal marine habitats.
- Antelopes have almost been eradicated over the last 30
years in the northern African arid areas - a region larger in size than
the Australian continent.
- Houbara bustards, birds well adapted to steppe and desert
areas and traditional prey for hunting with falcons will soon disappear
from Asia and Africa if no strong action is taken.
- Albatrosses and other seabirds, dolphins and marine turtles
by the hundreds of thousands are being caught and drowned in the nets of
- Governmental and non-governmental wildlife experts from
100 countries worked on plans to reverse these losses at a global conference
in Cape Town, South Africa from November 4 to 16 - the 6th Conference of
the Parties to the Bonn Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species
of Wild Animals (CMS).
- The Convention, which aims to offer protection across
national boundaries to species threatened with extinction - such as whales,
seals, polar bears, elephants and migratory birds - was signed in Bonn
- There are between 5,000 and 10,000 migratory species.
Many are threatened with extinction and very many have not been researched
- The conference decided by consensus that seven migratory
species - six rare birds and the manatees in the marine areas of Panama
and Honduras - be listed as endangered. This will entail their strict legal
protection including their habitat, by the countries where they live.
- Thirty other species - dolphins in South-East Asia, seven
petrel species, twelve sturgeon species of various regions and the Whale
Shark - will be protected in other ways. These will include transboundary
research, monitoring, conservation actions, harmonization of legislation,
capacity building and public awareness raising activities.
- Seven more countries added their signatures to an Agreement
on the Conservation of Marine Turtles on the Atlantic Coast of Africa,
led by the Nigerian Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr. Imeh Okopido.
- Over and above goodwill decisions, the wildlife experts,
although under severe pressure from their finance ministries at home, agreed
to invest about US$1 million in a two year project plan for the benefit
of the species concerned and their habitats, but with real benefits in
the longer term to the local communities in the respective countries.
- To date, more than 80 wild animal species enjoy the strict
protection offered by the Bonn Convention through being listed under Appendix
I. Examples include many whale species, dolphins, Monk seals, European
bats, the Snow leopard, turtles and many species of birds, such as the
Osprey and the Siberian crane.
- The most comprehensive of the specialized agreements
to date is the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory
Waterbirds (AEWA) which has just held its First Meeting in Cape Town at
the invitation of the Netherlands. It presently embraces 117 Range States
covering 60,000,000 square kilometres and 172 species, such as the White
Stork, pelicans, flamingoes and endangered ducks, which are dependent on
intact wetlands. "Migratory birds do not just require protection in
their breeding and wintering grounds..." says CMS Executive Secretary
Arnulf Mueller-Helmbrecht, "...but also in their resting places and
along their migration routes."
- This agreement is seen as an essential instrument for
the conservation of waterbirds on their migration routes, for the 21st
century. Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the United Nations Environment
Programme said, "One should bear in mind, that migratory birds have
evolved in the course of the last 200 million years. A study carried out
by the Max Planck Society has established that over the past 25 years,
the number of birds migrating between Europe and Africa has declined by
one per cent per annum". It is "an alarming thought that these
species could become extinct in the next 100 to 200 years," he said.
- Sea birds too are vanishing. "At least 250,000 albatrosses
and petrels have been killed in the past three years," claims an expert
from the international bird conservation group BirdLife International,
who called them "extremely endangered."
- To reverse the killing of albatrosses and petrels, the
delegates passed a resolution demanding a "substantial reduction"
in the by-catch from countries with fishing fleets. The by-catch means
animals and birds other than the targeted species of fish that are caught
by the fishing nets.
- Other seabirds, dolphins and marine turtles are also
expected to benefit if this resolution is implemented.
- Complete information about the Bonn Convention is online
- The next Conference of the Parties will be held in the
Convention's home city, Bonn, Germany in 2002.
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