WorldScan: June 25, 2003

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UN Maritime Body Decides to Evict Greenpeace

LONDON, UK, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has given notice that it intends to remove Greenpeace from its list of official observers, a consultative status the international environmental organization has enjoyed for a decade.

Greenpeace is known for its strategy of sending volunteers to board ships carrying cargo the organization deems to be bad for the environment, such as illegally logged timber, and to chain themselves to parts of the ships in protest.

At its 90th session last week, the IMO Council decided to withdraw the consultative status of Greenpeace International, the Iberoamerican Institute of Maritime Law, and the International Bar Association. The Council's ruling was made public Tuesday. A final decision will be made by the IMO Assembly at its next regular session in November.

Greenpeace says that two of the complainants, Cyprus and Turkey, are among the "flag of convenience" states which have met criticism from Greenpeace for their "willingness to license substandard and dangerous oil tankers."

In the eight months since the oil tanker "Prestige" spilled an estimated 12,000 metric tons of oil off the coast of northern Spain, Greenpeace has been active, demanding an accelerated ban on single-hull tankers, a scale back in the use of oil worldwide, and a tightening of loopholes that allow "dangerous rust buckets to sail under flags of convenience," the organization said.

The complaint to the IMO from Turkey notes that in July of 2002, activists chained themselves to various parts of the oil tanker "Crude Dio" and hung a banner reading "Stop the Oil Industry. Clean Energy Now!"

Complainant Australia noted that Greenpeace had protested ships carrying shale oil and genetically modified soy beans.

The shipping industry has been trying to brand Greenpeace actions as "dangerous" for years, despite the organization's view that the "real dangers are the cargoes such as oil, plutonium, and toxic wastes."

Greenpeace says safety is "paramount" at all times. "Our activists are thoroughly trained, our nautical standards and expertise have earned the respect of coast guards and maritime specialists around the world. Unlike the oil industry, we don't put other people's lives or the environment at risk with our actions."

The IMO is financially dependent on the tanker industry, Greenpeace points out. The dues paid by each country are determined by the tonnage of their respective fleets, which makes the large flag of convenience countries - Panama, Liberia, Greece, Cyprus, and others - the largest contributors. The oil companies often pay these dues and will even represent these countries directly at the IMO, Greenpeace says.

"As the doors of the IMO close to all but the corporate dealmakers and backroom politicos, Greenpeace will continue its fight to protect our oceans and its struggle against unsafe cargoes. This fragile earth deserves a voice. The IMO has a duty to listen," the organization says.

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Gourma Elephants Face Extinction

WASHINGTON, DC, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - Extinction of the unique Gourma elephants "is a real possibility if conditions don't change soon," Vicki Huddleston, U.S.Ambassador to Mali, warned in a June 18 interview with the U.S. State Department International Information Program. If the international community does not join with the Malian government now to prevent their ranges from being taken over by human settlements, these beautiful creatures will die, she said.

The elephants live in the West African country of Mali in the Gourma region of the Sahel, a narrow stretch of land between the desert in the north and savanna in the south.

In a recent visit to the elephants' habitat on Lake Banzena in central Mali south of Timbuktu, Huddleston witnessed the devastation these reclusive animals face.

The recent settlement of the formerly nomadic Tuareg and Peuhl tribes may seal the elephants' fate, she said. In this arid land, the tribes' permanent residence in the region dries up the elephants' water holes. Herds of cattle are encroaching on their natural feeding grounds and migratory paths.

Even before these recent settlements following the last decade's civil conflicts, the number of elephants has "dropped dramatically, from 1000 in the 1970s to 350 at present, mainly as a result of drought and disease," Huddleston said.

According to Huddleston and Iain Douglas-Hamilton, a conservation biologist with Save the Elephants, the forbidding landscape forces the elephants to migrate 20,000 kilometers (12,427 miles) in a counter-clockwise circle, southward to Burkina Faso then eastward and back to the west, to find the water holes and vegetation needed for a herd this size.

But the settlers have needs as well. They need fixed water sources for themselves and for their herds and crops. In this situation, the elephants' turn to drink comes last, said Huddleston. When drought is added to the equation, there are scant drops left for the elephants at all.

The elephants do have a reserve, but the Gourma Elephant Reserve, where the elephants gather during the dry season, is not large enough or sufficiently equipped to really support and protect the elephants. According to Huddleston the reserve has no infrastructure, no permanent staff in the field, and no extension programs with nomadic and local communities."

To help correct this deficiency, Huddleston has joined forces with the new Mali Minister of the Environment, who has shown a "genuine desire to address the problem," in establishing a real national reserve for the elephants using a $300,000 grant from the U.S. government Economic Support Fund.

The U.S. Government project could stimulate additional funding from the world community and help the Malian agencies implement the needed changes.

Huddleston warned, "If the elephants can't survive here [in the Gourma region] then they are finished. I don't know where else these elephants can live if we can't protect this area. If nothing changes, these elephants will become only a memory."

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Dogs Bite Whales

LONDON, UK, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - Meat from whales taken in Japan's scientific research whaling program is being turned into pet food, according to research by Professor Frank Cipriano, of San Francisco State University, a pioneer of whalemeat identification using DNA matching techniques.

Analysis carried out by Professor Cipriano on samples of pet food purchased by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) near Tokyo, revealed both Antarctic minke whale and dolphin meat.

In February, EIA purchased dog food products from supermarkets in Shizuoka and Otsuchi, Japan. DNA analysis showed that the dried dog food from Shizuoka contained Antarctic minke and a packaged dog food product purchased in Otsuchi contained dolphin DNA.

The new method for DNA analysis of highly processed products, which was used to analyze fertilizer and pet food samples, was presented to the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at this year's annual meeting.

Based in London and Washington, DC, the Environmental Investigation Agency, along with the UK based Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, and The Humane Society of the United States, released evidence of the whale meat in pet food at last week's IWC annual meeting.

"The fact that Japan is using whale meat for pet foods totally invalidates Japan's attempts to legitimize and increase their catches," said Clare Perry of the Environmental Investigation Agency.

Japanese whaling fleets take a self imposed quota of 440 minke whales in the Southern Ocean and 440 minkes in the North Pacific each year in addition to dozens of sperm, sei, and Bryde's whales - all as part of the scientific research whaling allowed under the International Whaling Commission (IWC) rules.

The IWC requires that all meat left after research is finished must be utilized, not discarded.

At the IWC meeting, Japan attempted to win a quota of whales for coastal communities, but their bid was defeated.

Sue Fisher of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said, "We hear the same rhetoric year after year about distressed coastal whaling communities, and now we find that whales are being used as pet food."

More than 400,000 dolphins, porpoises and small whales have been killed in Japanese waters in the last 20 years, the three organizations estimate.

The whale meat, whether consumed by humans or animals, will burden their bodies with a toxic load of mercury. Analysis of meat from toothed whales sold for human consumption in Japan, recently published by Japanese researchers, revealed that 100 percent of these products exceeded the allowed levels for mercury content.

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Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation Expands

LONDON, UK, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - On Friday, at a ceremony aboard a Russian warship anchored in the Thames River, the United Kingdom will formally join the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation (AMEC), which currently comprises Russia, Norway and the United States.

High level representatives of the four countries will conduct the ceremony aboard the Russian warship "Neustrashimiy," which translates as fearless, anchored in the Thames River near Greenwich.

Established in 1996, AMEC's purpose is to reduce the environmental impact of military operations in the Arctic. AMEC projects cover radiological and non-radiological waste issues.

The U.S. Defense Department describes the AMEC's activities, saying, "A key focus for AMEC is to develop storage and treatment technologies to improve the decommissioning of Russian nuclear submarines and related facilities, a process that generates large volumes of solid radioactive waste. Without proper storage, the waste could release significant amounts of radiation into the environment."

As part of its work, AMEC developed a 40 ton storage and transport cask used to contain spent nuclear fuel, some of which was previously stored in the open.

The cask's success has led to mass production and use by the U.S. Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to store spent nuclear fuel from Russian ballistic missile submarines.

Other AMEC developments include a solid radioactive waste treatment complex that will significantly improve the safety and security of Russian decommissioning efforts. All these efforts help to secure radioactive materials from otherwise unguarded locations and protect the environment.

To read technical details of the new cask for storage of Russian solid radioactive waste visit: http://web.dandp.com/AMEC/stabilizationamec.asp

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WWF Honors Russian, South African Women

WASHINGTON, DC, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - At an awards ceremony today in Washington, the conservation organization WWF recognized the efforts of two outstanding women for their role in conservation. Svetlana Titova of Russia and Ronwyn "Ronnie" Brereton-Stiles of South Africa received WWF awards for their dedication and the advancement of conservation work in their native countries.

"Through the Women and Conservation Initiative, World Wildlife Fund seeks to raise the profile of the conservation work done by extraordinary women around the world," said Kathryn Fuller, president of World Wildlife Fund. "Svetlana and Ronnie are wonderful role models for other women seeking to make a difference in their communities."

Each of this year's winners will receive a cash award of $5,000 to be used for conservation activities in their countries.

This is the third year that WWF has presented the Women and Conservation Awards. Previous winners include women from Mexico, Indonesia, Nepal and Namibia.

With over 2.5 million acres of Russian wilderness preserved and a new generation of conservationists poised to protect these areas, Titova can rest assured that her function as director of the Amur Socio-Ecological Union has been effective. Titova has devoted her career to preserving the forests of the Amur province in eastern Russia.

Titova has inspired Russian youth by organizing student druzhinas, or anti-poaching brigades. She also founded the Ecological Leadership School to encourage young environmentalists to undertake conservation roles in Russia.

"One person can play a huge role," Titova said. "I can be an example for others, and I prove myself and my passion for the nature of the Russian Far East through wilderness expeditions and all of my work."

Over the past three years, Stiles has inspired local women of southern Africa to actively engage in protecting their natural resources.

With the support of local women from the eNkovukeni community of Maputaland, northeastern South Africa, Ronnie created the Songimvelo Mussel Committee to monitor mussel harvesting and no-take zones in coastal waters.

Despite setbacks, Stiles and 15 local women developed a model of sustainable mussel harvesting that neighboring communities have begun to institute in their own regions.

"I was thrilled to receive this award," Stiles said. "For me, it shows an acknowledgement of the part women have to play not only in conservation, but their pivotal role as agents of reconciliation and change."

"In the context of South Africa where we have come through many years of disunity, it was the women who stepped out and forged partnerships with conservation agents to jointly manage their natural resources," Stiles said.

In addition to the recognition awards, the Women and Conservation Initiative offers a small grants fund that supports women and conservation programs in WWF ecoregions and a Girls Scholarships Program to support secondary education for girls as a tangible way to promote the involvement of women as environmental stewards and decisionmakers.

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Beetle Threatens Samoan Coconut Plantations

APIA, Samoa, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - The rhinoceros beetle, which has been eating its way through the coconut trees of the South Pacific islands, has Samoan agricultural authorities worried.

Senior entomologist Fuifatu Billy Enosa, of the Nu’u Crop Station, told the "Samoa Observer" newspaper last week that the country could even lose much of its coconut production if the beetle problem is not addressed.

The island country's 2,000 coconut farmers are experiencing a coconut production comeback, but the beetle "has the potential to devastate coconut plantations,” said Enosa.

Adult beetles cause damage by burrowing into the crown of the palm to feed internally on the soft unfurled palm leaves. This weakens the tree and affects its ability to bear fruit, Enosa explained.

Sawmill sites and dead tree trunks blown down by storms are ideal sites for the shiny, black beetles to lay their eggs.

As adults the beetles can fly over long distances, even over short ocean stretches.

Agricultural authorities have introduced viral and fungal biocontrol agents and are setting up beetle traps.

Enosa would like to see at least 200 people working to combat the beetles, moving in teams of 10 to clear the land of possible breeding sites, but right now fewer than 10 people are engaged in this work.

The Samoan government has launched a national public awareness program asking local village authorities to help eradicate the destructive beetles.

The beetle, which is thought to have come to the South Pacific from Southeast Asia, is also present on Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Wallis and Futuna. It was recently discovered in the Cook Islands.

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New Brazilian Owl Named for Intel Founder

BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil, June 25, 2003 (ENS) - A newly described and critically endangered pygmy owl species discovered in Brazil, has been named after Intel founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty Moore, according to Conservation International.

The tiny owl, measuring six inches from bill to tail and weighing just two ounces, was found in fragmented secondary forest in Pernambuco state in northeastern Brazil. It will be known as Glaucidium mooreorum, or by its common name, the Pernambuco pygmy owl.

Only about three new bird species are described each year. The description of the new owl appears in the most recent edition of the "Brazilian Journal of Ornithology."

The three scientists responsible for describing the owl as a distinct species named it after the Moores for their contributions to biodiversity conservation. In 2001, the Moore Foundation made one of the largest gifts in environmental history by giving Conservation International $261 million in a series of grants over 10 years to implement a global strategy for biodiversity conservation.

The owl was first recorded in 1990 by Galileu Coelho, a professor at the Federal University of Pernambuco, who did not realize at the time that this was a distinct species.

It was only in 2000 when José Maria Cardoso da Silva of Conservation International Brazil came across the stored specimen in a bird collection and compared it with similar species, that he concluded it was new to science.

After analyzing the bird's song against those of other species, Luiz Pedreira Gonzaga of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro supported Cardoso da Silva's hypothesis.

Gustavo Fonseca, Conservation International's executive vice president for programs and science, warned that the newly described owl is at grave risk of extinction. "Despite being so new to science, enough evidence exists to rank the pygmy owl as critically endangered according to the World Conservation (IUCN) Red List guidelines," he said.

The new species has been seen in only two locations in Pernambuco making habitat protection critical to its survival. Researchers warn its range is limited, its habitat severely fragmented and in a state of continuing decline due to unchecked human activities in the region.

The Atlantic Forest biodiversity hotspot in which the bird occurs is one of the most threatened in the world.

The area in which the pygmy owl lives harbors half of the 850 bird species that exist in the Atlantic Forest, with 17 globally threatened species and one extinct in the wild, the Mitu mitu. The region has one of the highest numbers of threatened species in all of South America.

Called by Conservation International one of the "hottest of the hotspots," this region has some of the most unique biodiversity in the world and is also at high risk of losing it unless immediate conservation action is taken.

Less than 10 percent of the Atlantic Forests' original vegetation remains. In an area 50 times smaller than the Brazilian Amazon, it holds 20,000 plant species, 40 percent of which are found nowhere else.

Combined, the 25 global biodiversity hotspots identified by Conservation International contain 60 percent of terrestrial plant and animal species in only 1.4 percent of the planet's land area.

Conservationists have recommended a regional strategy that includes forest restoration and the establishment of ecological corridors to connect remaining forest fragments.

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