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Some Endangered Species Have No 'Safety Net', say Environmentalists - 2004-04-08

At least 300 so-called "critically endangered" animal species have absolutely no protection against extinction in their environments. Similarly, nearly 500 less endangered animals have no safety net to protect them from disappearing off the face of the earth. Environmentalists say the endangerment is the result of a "global gap" that urgently needs closing.

While they're not ideal, environmentalists say most countries have adopted some sort of measures to protect their endangered animal species by preserving more than eleven percent of the planet's land areas. But according to an international study published in Nature, hundreds of animals in mostly tropical forests, mountains and islands have no barrier against extinction.

The study, the largest assessment of its kind, finds huge gaps in areas with the greatest diversity of animals species, which are the tropics. The study was led by the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, based in Washington, whose two dozen affiliated scientists analyzed data collected by thousands of researchers around the world.

Center research fellow Ana Rodrigues says many delicate species are being edged out by deforestation similar to what's happening in the Brazilian rainforest. "More than ninety percent of its original extent is gone. You will have less than ten percent of the original forest left," she says. "And of course, many species have suffered with this, and many of them are critically endangered."

Experts say when species go extinct, it affects the balance of nature and resulting natural resources, such as water and air quality.

Ms. Rodrigues says measures are urgently needed in places like southern India, the Altantic forest and the Andes mountains in Chile. "When you talk about protection, we don't mean making fenced parks where people can't get inside. We just mean that some type of conservation action is urgently needed in these places," says Ms. Rodrigues. "It can be community-based conservation, it can be forest reserves."

It also means limiting clear-cutting, which destoys animals habitats.

Experts say richer countries should help pay for conservation efforts in poorer countries that cannot afford the cost of animal protection.