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Environment


The crested iguana
Wildlife survival in Bangladesh
Peat energy in Burundi
Tropical timber research in Mexico
Sri Lanka's forest cover assessed
A second five-year conservation programme for Indonesia
Environmental damage costs in developed countries in GNP terms

The crested iguana

Bachylophus vitiensis

The Fiji Film Unit has prepared a colour film on the life cycle of the crested iguana Bachylophus vitiensis. This rare animal, recognized by Dr J. Gibbons of the University of the South Pacific and first described in 1981, makes its home or, a remote Fiji island.

The film spans a year of animal observation and records behavioural aspects from hatching to death.

The film is available in a 16-mm print or ¾-inch Pal U-matic video cassette and is well suited for teaching English. It lasts 13 minutes.

To purchase a copy of the film, price US$250, contact:

Director of Film Production
Fiji Film Unit
Government Buildings
Suva. Fiji.

Wildlife survival in Bangladesh

Habitat disturbance, shrinkage and destruction in Bangladesh are seriously endangering that country's wildlife. Certain important species have disappeared and the total wildlife population is thought to be considerably below optimum carrying capacity.

The Government has introduced various types of state ownership of property in an effort to curb hunting, trapping and commercial exploitation of forests. About 13100 km² (5060 sq. miles) of forest are under the management of the Forest Department; another 9000 km² (3500 sq. miles) are Unclassified State Forest; and public lands include coastal wetlands and estuaries. Nevertheless, lowland forests have been virtually eliminated as a result of population pressure and the consequences have proved disastrous for reptiles, birds and mammals. For animals such as elephants which have special habitats, changes in the ecosystems are particularly threatening. This is also true of the Bengal tiger, the gaur (Bos gaurus), the clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) and the fishing cat (Felis viverrina) as well as birds and reptiles.

The World Wildlife Fund's expeditions of 1966 and 1967 were instrumental in focusing attention on the wildlife peril in Bangladesh. The Government of Bangladesh responded in 1973 with the Bangladesh Wildlife Preservation Act and Preservation Order No. 23 which acted to safeguard wildlife by creating a national scheme of protected areas. This scheme provided for the establishment and maintenance of three tiger sanctuaries, an elephant sanctuary, six game reserves, one crocodile sanctuary and 14 waterfowl protection centres. There is only one zoo in the country, but it is without an ecologist and lacks the necessary materials and facilities.

Peat energy in Burundi

Forest reserves in Burundi have deteriorated to the point where wood supplies remain for only 10 more years, and the Government, as a consequence, is taking steps to use peat, which the country has in abundance.

The cost per calorie of dry peat is only 40 percent of the per-calorie cost of wood and 80 percent that of charcoal. While Burundi has an estimated two thousand million m³ of peat reserves, the peat sites first have to be drained and then the peat itself packed down and dried. Following the harvesting of the peat, the nutrient-rich bog site can then be replanted for forestry, agricultural or- grazing purposes. All this requires planning, investment and training.

Following the launching of a "Burundi Peat Project," government officials turned for assistance to Ireland, where 20 percent of energy needs are supplied by peat. The Irish Peat Board as well as Ireland's Agency for Personal Services Overseas have provided technical assistance. Funding has come from Catholic Relief Service and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA). To consolidate its programme. Burundi established ONATOUR (Office national de la tourbe), a national peat office, under the Ministry of Mines and Geology.

The result, according to many observes (see Appropriate Technology, Vol. 8. No. 1, June 1981. p. 11-12), is that peat shows great future promise as an energy source for Burundi. If Burundi's example proves successful, a number of other African countries with proven peat deposits - Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Zaire - might be able to benefit from such an example.

Tropical timber research in Mexico

Since its establishment in 1975, Mexico's National Institute for Research in Biotic Resources, charged with the formidable task of preserving the country's biotic resources, has expanded its efforts into many different areas. One recent result of this expanded effort has been the publication of a book, Grading of timber in Mexico, which has developed a visual grading corresponding to structural strength with the result that industry is much more willing to use different types of tropical wood.

Another new development is the designation of a rain-forest reserve, to be managed as a "germ-plasm bank" of genetic material, at the Institute's field station at El Morro de la Mancha. An adjoining tree and plant nursery contains about 20000 specimens of 100 different species.

Headquartered in Xalapa, Veracruz, the Institute has more than 100 full-time scientists and researchers on the staff with 150 others in supporting roles. In addition. 24 candidates for masters' degrees from Mexico and abroad arc studying at the Institute and another 24 are completing their theses.

Other programmes currently being pursued include the identification and cataloguing of biosphere resources, the teaching of Mexican peasants, the maintenance of a herbarium and various kinds of computerized research. At the La Mancha station, there is an integrated farm which includes, besides the farm itself, a rain-forest reserve, a brackish lagoon, a freshwater pond and a tree nursery. Many programmes such as these are funded with grants from the Mexican Government, from various UN agencies and private foundations

The programme's importance is clear. A good portion of Mexico's wet tropical areas, which together comprise 388500 km² (150000 sq. miles) or 19.7 percent of the country's entire land area, has been destroyed or severely damaged by erosion. The native forests of the States of Tamaulipas and Veracruz, for example, are nearly gone. Those in Tabasco State are disappearing and those in Campeche and Yucatan are being threatened. Through the work of the Institute, this trend may be reversed.

From Research and Development, Vol. 2, No. 11.

Sri Lanka's forest cover assessed

A more precise assessment of Sri Lanka's forest cover is now available, due to the joint efforts of the Sri Lanka Forest Department and the Swiss Remote Sensing Survey Project. Their findings indicate a dense forest cover of 25 percent, and an additional 10 percent of light or other forest cover, totalling 35 percent of the land area of the country. If the vegetative cover of rubber plantations and coconuts is included, the total cover amounts to 45-50 percent. Smaller village gardens, wood-lots and stream reservations would further increase the total tree cover.

Despite the Mahaweli forest clearing, the general situation in Sri Lanka appears healthy.

One important result of the study is the Forest Department's recommendation to enrich planting in wildlife rangelands where grazing, browsing and trampling by herds are harming vegetation.

IN THE MOZQUITAL VALLEY - erosion has already damaged 20 percent of Mexico's land area

Controversy over national parks in Thailand

The year 1962 marked the establishment of the first national park in Thailand, the 216800-ha Khao Yai Park in central Thailand. Spearheaded by Khun Pong Leng Ee, the Director of the National Parks Division since 1978, the number of parks has now risen to 35 with an additional seven in the planning stage. The total national percentage of land area affected has risen to 4 percent. There are also 24 separately administered wildlife sanctuaries.

Despite its expansion, the National Park programme has not met with unanimous praise. Its critics claim that the parks are not up to the standards of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN): they cite poor management and widespread poaching of wildlife and timber. Rather than enlarging the park system, they urge improvement of the existing parks. The supporters of the present park programme counter with the argument of urgency. With forest cover reduced to 25 percent of land area, compared to 58 percent only 25 years ago, they contend that the speed of deforestation and the pressure of a growing population mean that territory for parks is urgently required while land is still available. Furthermore, they point to the disproportionate geographical distribution of the parks: most are in the hilly areas of the northwest with evergreen and deciduous growth while there are few areas of lowland evergreen forest, wetlands, mangroves or coral reefs.

A central issue in the park debate is how to improve management standards. It is generally recognized that increase in staff is not a certain cure, but that the support of villagers is a requisite for effective conservation in rural areas.

Tourism is an almost untapped source of park revenue. Although Thailand receives 1.8 million tourists a year, the average visitor stays only five days in the country, which is scarcely enough time to see the national parks. With the proper incentives, it is hoped that foreign visitors will begin to explore Thailand's natural heritage.

A recent FAO report proposes a review of Thailand's protected areas in order to develop a comprehensive system. A major recommendation calls for the integration of the existing wildlife sanctuaries into the national park system and the creation of a graduated scale of parks and reserves.

A second five-year conservation programme for Indonesia

Indonesia, the 13000-island archipelago, recently signed a major five-year conservation agreement with the WWF and the IUCN, aimed at ensuring "sustainable use of natural resources".

The 1981 Conservation Agreement follows an earlier five-year plan which was intended to "yield distinct benefits to the Indonesian people". Since 1977 the WWF/IUCN supported 37 projects, totalling US$1.5 million. At present 20 WWF/IUCN projects are under way. The result will be a network of 196 protected areas covering 4 percent of the total land area of Indonesia.

The fifth most populous country in the world, Indonesia possesses important stands of tropical rain forests. The fact that timber ranks as the biggest foreign-exchange earner after oil means that conservation of natural resources represents a key to the nation's future well-being.

The new conservation programme, funded to approximately the same level as its predecessor, has as a principal objective the coordination of projects with development activities of the World Bank National Park Development Project. It seeks other funds from international development agencies, not only for parks, but for housing about 500000 people living in areas bordering on the parks.

Indonesian initiatives signal an optimistic trend in conservation efforts. The Government increased its budget for nature protection by 56 percent in 1981 to US$5.4 million and there are more than 400 citizen nature groups.

The 1982-1983 WWF Tropical Forests and Primates campaign chose Indonesia as one of 12 countries destined for priority attention. Home of orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinoceros and 17 percent of the world's bird species' Indonesia is a country rich in both fauna and potential.

Environmental damage costs in developed countries in GNP terms

Damage to the environment in developed countries costs approximately three to five percent of the gross national product, according to Nature, newsletter of the Council of Europe.

The amount of money that is being spent on repair of such damage, reports Nature, is only one to two percent of the gross national product.

AT A TEAK PLANTATION - renewing one of Indonesia's valuable forest resources


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