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Brazilian Endangered Species Now Number 395

By André Muggiati

BRASILIA, Brazil, May 22, 2003 (ENS) - Using Brasilia National Park in the nation's capital as a backdrop, the Brazilian government today released a new endangered species assessment with 395 animals listed as endangered to some degree. The previous list, from 1989, counted 219 endangered species.

Some of the animals on the previous list such as the black caiman, the wild cat and the harpy eagle, are not on the new one, because their populations have recovered over the past 14 years. Researchers found that they are no longer endangered.

caiman

Black caiman, Melanosuchus niger, in Mamiraua, Brazil, where a population of this depleted species is recovering. (Photo by Photo by J.Thorbjarnarson courtesy UFL)
On the other hand, many other species that were not at risk in 1989 are now considered threatened, including primates, many species of butterflies, insects, spiders and snakes.

Environment Minister Marina Silva said that the increased number of species on the list shows that, “Brazilian fauna is not being cared for.” She also said that recovering the populations of these species will be a priority for the ministry in the future.

According to the new list, 160 birds, 96 insects, 69 mammals, 34 invertebrates, 20 reptiles and 16 amphibians are endangered, threatened, at risk of extinction or already extinct.

Missing from the list are the aquatic species. They should have been included for the first time, but the government decided to carry out further studies, because many species utilized commercially, such as crabs, lobsters and shrimps, may need protection. In 1989 the list did not include aquatic animals because there was not enough information about their situation.

The new list should contain 166 fishes and invertebrates, mainly fresh water species, whose population is declining due to the construction of hydroelectric plants, river pollution, and the destruction of riverine forests.

The biggest problem concerns the marine invertebrates, which are targeted by many fishermen. The government estimates that over one million people make their living from the commercial use of these species.

Ministry officials announced that the new list will be held for more studies for three months, when it will be released together with new criteria for the capture of some of the species according to the zones and basins in which they live.

This resulted in protests by scientists and environmentalists, some of them responsible for the elaboration of the list.

tamarin

The golden lion tamarin Leontopithecus rosalia originally from Brazil is considered one of the most endangered primates in the world due to habitat destruction. Many now exist in zoos, like this one in the Mogo Zoo, New South Wales, Australia. (Photo courtesy Mogo Zoo)
The ministry denied that these animals were taken off the list because of the Fome Zero (Hunger Zero) Program, which aims to eliminate the problem of hunger in the country. Fome Zero, a priority for the new Brazilian government, started last January.

Which species to list in the new endangered species catalog were determined by consultants from Conservation International, Biodiversitas Foundation, Terra Brasilis, Brazilian Zoology Society and some public universities, using the criteria established by the World Conservation Union-IUCN.

Silva also announced the creation of a working group to try to reduce the loss of biodiversity. This group will be responsible for the establishment of the framework for the releasing of new lists, inclusion and exclusion of species.

The working group will also create programs for the recovery of endangered species, propose the creation of conservation areas, suggest measures to mitigate environmental impacts, and stimulate research programs.

Most of the endangered or extinct species from Brazil are from the southern and southeastern regions of the country, which are more economically developed than other regions. The most threatened region is the Mata Atlantica, the tropical forest originally located along Brazil's Atlantic coast. This forest known for its high diversity of species, now covers only seven percent of its original territory.

The endangered species list also sets the criteria for the execution of Brazilian environmental law. The capture, hunting or commercialization of species on the list is considered a crime and violators are sentenced to prison.

The new list of endangered species in Brazil is available at the Ministry of Environment website at: http://www.mma.gov.br (Portuguese only)



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