November 25, 2004

Conservation Group Urges Gov’t Cooperation

BANGKOK, Thailand - Scientists and officials strengthened efforts to forestall the extinction of thousands of species and protect the world's habitats in talks in Bangkok, but governments need to work harder to promote conservation, an international environment agency said Thursday.

The World Conservation Union warned at the start of the conference earlier this month that wildlife populations were dwindling at unprecedented rates and that more than 15,500 plant and animal species faced extinction, largely because of exploitation and habitat destruction by people.

The meeting, which ended Thursday, brought together nearly 5,000 scientists, government officials, business representatives and conservationists to discuss environmental research and nature protection plans.

"The international community has committed itself to reverse the rate of loss of biodiversity by 2010," Achim Steiner, the group's director general, told reporters at the close of the talks.

"We need to hold governments accountable for the commitments they made at the Johannesburg World Summit," he said, referring to a 2002 meeting in South Africa at which officials outlined plans to conserve natural resources in the face of human population growth.

Steiner said the scientific data presented at the Bangkok meeting was "nothing short of dramatic in terms of the need to act." He said hundreds of agreements to boost conservation were struck during the conference, which started Nov. 17.

Under one of the deals, the U.S. space agency NASA agreed to donate satellite images and data to help the environmental body build a global database of maps to help protect wildlife species.

The Bangkok talks focused on ecosystems, species loss, human poverty and livelihoods and the role of business and markets for natural resources, Achim said.

On Wednesday, the World Conservation Union elected former South African Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Valli Moosa to be its president for the next four years. He began his term immediately.

The World Conservation Union, created in 1948 as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, is an umbrella organization that consists of 82 member countries as well as organizations and scientists from 181 nations.