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2003 IUCN Red List
The state of the world's ecosystems
Fungal Partners
Rainforest alliance launches expanded eco-index
Africa - the most promising ecotourism product in the world
Amazonia: development without destruction
Cross-order parks on the way
Partnership for environmental management

2003 IUCN red list

IUCN–World Conservation Union has recently released its updated Red List, regarded as the world’s most reliable inventory of the conservation status of flora and fauna. With more than 2 000 entries added and 380 taxa reassessed since the release of the previous year’s list, the Red List currently records more than 12 000 species threatened with extinction; 762 plants and animal species are already logged as “extinct”.

The list finds that invasive species are an overriding threat to global biodiversity, threatening to undermine populations of native plants and animals on islands and continents.

All known conifer species have been reassessed, and the 2003 list sees new entries of more than 1 000 Ecuadorian plants, 125 Hawaiian plants, more than 300 cycads and 35 Galapagos Island snails.

IUCN will undertake a major analysis of the Red List in 2004, the results of which will be presented to the third IUCN World Conservation Congress in Bangkok in November 2004.

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The state of the world’s ecosystems

The World Wildlife Fund International released its report on the state of the world’s ecosystems – as measured by the Living Planet Index – and the human pressures on them through the consumption of renewable natural resources. The report is available at:

Fungal partners

Palaeontologists theorize that the evolutionary leap of plants from ocean to land was accomplished by plants forming a symbiotic relationship with fungi. Today, 90 percent of all plants are associated with fungi in the soil, and 80 percent could not survive without their fungal partners. The complete article, Corner on ecology: partners ... for 500 million years!, by Gigi La Budde, is available at:< /A>

Rainforest alliance launches expanded eco-index

The Eco-Index is an Internet resource managed by the Rainforest Alliance that contains detailed information about conservation projects in Latin America. It has information about more than 550 projects of 400 non-governmental organizations and government ministries throughout the neotropics. The site is in English and Spanish, while profiles of Brazil-based projects are also available in Portuguese. The database is searchable by keyword, country, organization, funders and/or by 70 different categories.

Project directors submit information on the Eco-Index via a template questionnaire, available on-site (or upon request by sending an e-mail to: ). To ensure the quality of information, Eco-Index staff members, based in New York and Costa Rica, carefully edit, fact check and translate each questionnaire.

The Eco-Index’s “What’s New?” page is an online environmental magazine, updated each month. (Source: CEPF E-News, November 2004 .)

Africa – the most promising ecotourism product in the world

A passion for Africa, tourism based on a code of ethics, a belief in the power of tourism as an instrument of prosperity, can all be major factors in responding to the challenges of poverty and inequity, but, most of all, prospects of peace.

These points encapsulated the mood of the Conference on Tourism, Peace and Sustainable Development, held in Luanda, Angola at the end of May in conjunction with the World Tourism Organization (WTO) Commission for Africa. The conference was chaired by Mr Jorges Alicerces Valentin, Minister of Hotels and Tourism of Angola, and attended by some 40 countries including more than 20 ministers of tourism. The issues discussed included macroeconomics, peace dividends, investment, partnerships, economic impact analysis, aviation liberalization and interface with New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). In addition, related case studies were reviewed from across the continent.

There was also widespread support for the view that Africa has the opportunity to use its unique tourism assets – its cultures, traditions, natural beauty and wildlife – as a major factor in poverty reduction and in unlocking peace dividends where conflict is resolved. The meeting shared the view articulated and demonstrated by Mr Dawid DeVilliers, WTO Deputy Secretary-General, that “passion for Africa and a belief in the power of tourism as a change agent can be a major factor in responding to the challenges of poverty and inequity.” It also underscored the value of WTO’s Global Code of Ethics as invaluable guidance for the kind of tourism that Africa must seek to pursue. “Africa is the most promising ecotourism product in the world, we must develop it with passion, profitably, through partnerships at all levels and above all with a strategic vision and the commitment from the governments of Africa,” said the Tourism Minister of Mauritius, Mr Nandcoomar Bodha.

Peace is fundamental to tourism development. With peace, tourism can be a central factor in economic growth, sustainable development and social progress. Without it the potential vanishes. Delegates stressed that partnership in tourism must be stronger than terrorism.

The geopolitical shift towards development generally and Africa specifically was also noted with optimism. The UN Millennium Development Goals, seeking to halve extreme poverty by 2015, the Summits of Doha on Trade Inclusion, of Monterrey on Debt Relief and of Johannesburg on Sustainable Development all led in the right direction for positive change. Regionally, the concept of an African Union and of NEPAD provided new exciting visionary mechanisms for African integration and renaissance – the latter now actively developing an African Tourism framework and reaching out to other institutions for support and interface. (Source: Vanguard [Lagos], 13 June 2003.)

World Tourism Organization to become specialized UN agency

Among the actions taken at the 15th General Assembly of the World Tourism Organization (WTO), held from 20 to 23 October in Beijing, China, was the decision to transform the organization into a specialized agency of the United Nations. The UN General Assembly in turn approved this decision on 7 November 2003. Delegates also supported the Organization’s “Sustainable Tourism – Eliminating Poverty” (ST-EP) initiative, a joint project with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to encourage sustainable tourism that aims at alleviating poverty.

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Amazonia: development without destruction

Every year 1 600 000 ha of forest are destroyed. In an attempt to revert this situation, the government is launching the Sustainable Amazonia Programme.

Five million square kilometres containing a fifth of the planet’s freshwater and ten million animal and plant species: the vast Amazonian rain forest acts as the planet’s guardian, maintaining the fragile balance in its climate. But Amazonia’s problems are as vast as its riches. There are 380 000 small rural properties in the region. Rural producers clear the forest to prepare the soil for planting, destroying the trees which could serve as an important source of income. Each year, the area devastated is equal to 1 600 000 football fields.

Gilney Viana, Secretary for Sustainable Development, said that the greatest challenge now facing Amazonia is to modernize it without damaging the environment. He said that Amazonia cannot limit its economy to the exportation of raw materials. “One of the alternatives is to diversify production by incorporating technological innovations and aggregating value to insert Amazonia’s products into the national and international markets”, he said. He emphasized that sustainable development must be associated with the generation of jobs, better distribution of income and a reduction in environment impact.

The Amazonian rain forest occupies five million square kilometres, 61 percent of the territory of Brazil, and covers the states of Acre, Amapá, Amazonas, Maranhão, Mato Grosso, Pará, Rondônia, Roraima and Tocantins. The region’s economy is based on mineral extraction, ranching, logging and export agriculture (mainly soya and cotton). In 2000, the Gross Regional Product was $R 73 billion, 6.5 percent of Brazil’s GNP. In recent years, environmentalists have criticized government policies which have favoured the advance of the agricultural frontier in the region and offered incentives for damaging the environment. They have also strongly criticized logging, mineral extraction and the construction of roads and hydroelectric plants in the region which have had a serious environmental impact.

The document, published by the Ministry of the Environment, considers some of the alternatives for the development of the region. Predatory timber extraction, for example, could be replaced by the adoption of certificated forest management. In the agricultural sector, incentives could be offered to producers who increase the productivity of areas which have already been devastated. Ecotourism has been flagged as a means of generating income without damaging the environment. Other alternatives include investment in biotechnology and charging for environmental services. (Source: Radiobras, in Amazon News, 13 November 2003.)

Cross-border parks on the way

Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism is finalizing a treaty for the establishment of a transfrontier park comprising the Ai-Ais Park in Namibia and the Richtersveld Park in South Africa.

Motivating his ministry’s budget for 2003–2004 in the National Assembly on Thursday, Minister Phillemon Malima said the initiative was recently discussed and supported by the Presidents of Namibia and South Africa, Sam Nujoma and Thabo Mbeki, and their governments. He said the project would improve the conservation management of an area with the richest biodiversity in Namibia and provide a new focus for tourism development in the south of the country.

Malima indicated that negotiations with Angola were also under way for a transfrontier park consisting of the Skeleton Coast Park in Namibia and Iona National Park in Angola. (Source: The Namibian [Windhoek], 14 April 2003.)

Partnership for environmental management

Brazil and France have approved a proposal to create a working group to help the French Government to implant a conservation area in French Guiana close to the border with Brazil. The 3 million hectare area covers practically the whole extension of the Tucumumaque Mountains National Park, which – with an area of 3.8 million hectares – is the largest conservation area in the world in a tropical forest region.

France is relying on Brazilian expertise and the communities living in the park to create the conservation area. The two countries are planning further cooperation to develop ecotourism in the region. They hope to involve Suriname in the project and transform the region into a large ecotourism corridor.

The Ministry of the Environment is creating a Tucumumaque Working Group to develop integrated action in the area surrounding the national park. One of the group’s immediate priorities is to elaborate a management plan and to implant a basic infrastructure to protect the park. The region is known as the Guiana Shield and is classified as being of “extreme biological importance”. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Brazil announced last year that it will make US$1 million available for the creation of the new park. The World Bank and the Global Environment Fund will also finance the project. (Source: IBAMA, in Amazon News, 10 April 2003.)

You see things; and you say, “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say, “Why not?”

George Bernard Shaw

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