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UN-backed meeting to work for conservation of rare animal species

UN-backed meeting to work for conservation of rare animal species

Government representatives meeting in Bonn, Germany, this week are hammering out tough new conservation rules for endangered animal species under an international treaty linked to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Under a proposal being put to a meeting of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, delegates from over 100 countries will consider giving the strongest possible protection to wild Bactrian camels, whose numbers have dwindled to fewer than 1,000, making them rarer than the giant panda.

According to UNEP, the species faces a number of threats, which experts fear are pushing the camels to the brink of extinction. These include poaching by hunters as well as illegal gold and oil miners, competition with farmers for water at oases, predation by wolves, and crossbreeding with domestic camels.

"Giving these extraordinary animals, which ongoing scientific research indicates may be also a new species distinct from the domesticated one, the highest protection should be a matter of urgency," said UNEP Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel, who is attending the Bonn conference.

The new regulations would require Mongolia and China to work more closely to restore camel habitats, crack down on hunting, and poaching, and develop strategies or "corridors" to allow the Chinese and Mongolian populations to migrate and mix in order to boost breeding and reduce the risks of in-breeding.

The plan for the wild Bactrian camels is one of 36 proposals covering the protection of endangered animal species being debated at the six-day conference. Other proposals deal with the Amazonian manatee, one of the largest mammals in South America, which is threatened by large-scale commercial hunting and pollution from gold mining and oil drilling operations. In addition, the Philippines is expected to lead talks on closer, regional cooperation to conserve stocks of the whale shark, the world's largest fish, which is prized for its meat.