(Jun 4, 2007)

UN urges forum to protect animals from climate change

By Anna Mudeva
From Reuters

THE HAGUE (Reuters) - A senior United Nations official urged a 171-nation U.N. wildlife forum on Sunday to take action to help protect animals from climate change.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) will also discuss measures at its two week-week meeting to help commercially valuable animal and tree species threatened by over-use.

A U.N. report has said human activities were wiping out three animal or plant species every hour and has urged the world to do more to slow the worst spate of extinctions since the dinosaurs by 2010.

Global warming, blamed mainly on human use of fossil fuels, is widely expected to add to existing threats and wreck habitats like the Amazon rain forest.

"CITES is not a forum for discussing climate change but decisions taken here do have an impact on species in a climatically challenged world," Shafgat Kakaklhel, deputy head of the U.N. Environment Programme, told the opening session.

"We will need robust species populations if they are to survive rising temperatures and more extremes," he said.


Many of the 37 proposals to be discussed at the meeting in The Hague reflect growing concern about rapid depletion of marine and forest resources.

Commercially valuable species like the spiny dogfish, the porbeagle shark and the European eel -- all threatened by over-use -- feature high on the agenda.

The focus will also be on coral jewellery, wooden musical instruments and furniture. Threatened species like pink or red coral and rosewood and cedar trees are facing tighter trade regulations.

Elephants are expected to trigger heated debate. African countries are split over the protection of the elephant, with some saying elephant populations have grown at an unsustainable rate.

CITES is widely credited with stemming the slaughter of the African elephant by imposing a ban on the international ivory trade in 1989.

But scientists say the killing of elephants for their tusks, mainly in central Africa, has reached levels not seen since 1989 because of Asian-run crime syndicates.

The talks will also help shape the future of CITES, which has banned trade in 530 animal species and more than 300 plant species.

CITES also regulates trade in 4,460 animal species and 28,000 plant species.

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