Endangered Species Handbook

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Vanishing Species

Actions and Attitudes: Page 10

     More and more countries are taking a keen interest in the preservation of wildlife, and some have ancient protective traditions.  The Asian country of Bhutan has a Buddhist ethic of not harming living things.  It is the only Himalayan country to have protected the majority of its forests.   Rhododendron species 40 feet tall grow there, and the rivers still flow clear, without erosion and siltation.  Species that are rare elsewhere in the region still survive in Bhutan.  One of its protected areas, Jigme Dorji National Park, is the size of Switzerland and preserves spectacular mountains and cascading waterfalls.  It is part of a Bhutanese government plan to create a nationwide system of reserves to protect the country's natural heritage (Adams 1994).  Although erosion and destruction of some of the native fir and rhododendron forests have occurred, Bhutanese people support the government's "go slow" approach to development and its plan to preserve wilderness (Adams 1994).  A wintering population of endangered Black-necked Cranes (Grus nigricollis) is zealously protected by the Bhutanese who live in the valley where the cranes come each year; they regard the birds as integral to their lives and believe that, without them, their harvests will fail.  These people miss the cranes’ calling when the birds migrate in the spring, and say that the valley seems empty and silent without them (Greenway 1997).  The Environment Ministry watches over the cranes as well and is extremely strict about issuing permits for activities that might harm them.
     New approaches may save some of these threatened tropical areas.  Australia's Rainforest Information Center has created an Internet website which plays rock and roll music; its sponsors pay to preserve the rainforest (EII 2001).  The organization is focusing on saving several endangered forests in Ecuador, including Los Cedros Biological Reserve and portions of the Madre Selva (EII 2001).  The Natural Resources Defense Council has created a list of BioGems (www.savebiogems.org), the 12 most endangered wildlands in North and Latin America.  It publicizes threats, such as proposed dams and logging, to generate thousands of letters and e-mails to governments, loggers, utilities and others.  The Macal River Valley in Belize, threatened by a dam project, has been saved through this program.  The US Duke Energy International company decided to withdraw from Belize after the torrent of protests (NRDC 2001).  Boise Cascade planned a major wood chip mill in Chile, which would have consumed 1,200 acres of endangered temperate rainforest a year, with endangered Alerce trees, the massive South American counterpart to the Sequoia.  The forests also sheltered tiny Pudu deer and rare birds.  The company announced that it would cancel its plans "as a result of unfavorable market conditions" (NRDC 2001).  Conservation International (CI) played an important role in the designation by the South American country of Suriname of much of its vast interior, a pristine rainforest, as a reserve.  CI, through its scientific studies, was able to show the country's leaders that, kept intact rather than being logged, this rainforest would prove far more valuable for future generations.  This organization has accomplished similar feats in Bolivia and other parts of the world, where it also carries out important biological inventories.
     An example of cooperating with local people for conservation of wildlife is the administration of the Mara Reserve of Kenya.  This reserve is run by the Maasai people through a council which mandates that tourist funds go directly for social services of the tribe; in turn, the Maasai, who live outside the reserve, allow wildlife to move freely without fencing or harassment that is common elsewhere in Africa where livestock is raised (Gakahu 1994).  In this reserve are endangered Cheetahs and Black Rhinos, along with 30 species of ungulates, including large numbers of elephants (Gakahu 1994).  Local villages in many parts of Kenya are establishing landowner associations that receive funds from tourism to protect wildlife and benefit local economies (Gakahu 1994).

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