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Belgian wildlife under threat

Published on 23/05/2005

23 May 2005

BRUSSELS – Between one third and one half of all animals found in Belgium are threatened, it emerged on Sunday.

Environment Minister Bruno Tobback, speaking on International Biodiversity Day, pointed to a new publication by Belgium’s Royal Institute of Natural Sciences.

Tobback called for urgent action to combat increasing environmental degradation and the disappearance of species in Belgium, as well as across the globe.

Big predators like wolves, bears and lynxes disappeared in Belgium decades ago. But other species have become extinct in Belgium much more recently; including dolphins, sturgeon and the bunting.

According to the Royal Institute’s recent report, one species becomes extinct on Earth every 13 mintues, and 60 percent of ecosystems are degraded due largely to human activity.

In Wallonia, boasting some 1,661 species cited in the study, one-third are listed as extinct (6.3 percent), endangered (9.6 percent) or vulnerable (17 percent).

Quasi-extinct mammals include the otter and a large species of wild hamster.

In Flanders, one-quarter of all fresh-water fish are threatened, as well as four in every ten species’ of birds.

In Brussels, at least 15 out of about 100 local bird species listed before 1950 are now extinct in the region. Fourteen more are listed as threatened, 18 as vulnerable and 12 as in regression. And 187 of 730 plant species have already vanished.

Only 1.1 percent of Belgian territory is currently classified as protected, although 12 percent is protected under the EU’s Natura 2000 network of nature preservation sites.

To find out more about the state of nature in Belgium, go to www.sciencesnaturelles.be

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Subject: Belgian news