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Galapagos Islands 'face barren future'
By Graham Tibbetts
(Filed: 18/11/2003)


The Galapagos Islands, which provided the inspiration for Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection, are in grave danger of becoming "ecologically and aesthetically barren", according to a new report.

The World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species says 35 types of snail are the latest members of the fragile eco-system to be considered at risk of extinction.

They are among more than 12,000 plants and animals around the world identified in the report as vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. Last year the list contained 10,000 entries.

This year South Africa's riverine rabbit, the black-browed albatross and the Mekong giant catfish of Vietnam all came closer to dying out.

But most concern surrounds the archipelagos of the Galapagos Islands, Hawaii and the Seychelles, whose delicate environments have been placed in jeopardy by habitat loss and the invasion of non-native species.

The addition of 35 critically endangered snails to this year's red list illustrates their decline caused by the introduction to the Galapagos of goats, pigs and fire ants. It is feared that some snails may have died out already. They join 54 plants from the island on the list.

In Hawaii the combined effects of rats, pigs, humans and alien varieties have resulted in 125 plants being added to the list. The flora of the Seychelles is similarly threatened.

"Places such as the Galapagos, Hawaii and the Seychelles are famed for their beauty which owes itself to the diversity of plants, animals, and eco-systems," said Achim Steiner, the union's director general. "The red list tells us that human activities are leading to a swathe of extinctions that could make these islands ecologically and aesthetically barren."

The Swiss-based organisation's report draws on reports from 7,000 experts. It lists 12,259 species threatened with extinction, in addition to 762 that have died out already.

At great risk of joining them is the riverine rabbit, found only in the central Karoo region of South Africa where numbers have slumped to fewer than 250 breeding pairs. With habitat loss and the perils of trapping, hunting and feral cats and dogs the decline is expected to continue.

The only primate to have been moved to a lower risk category is the golden lion tamarin of Brazil which has benefited from 30 years of conservation programmes.

The black-browed albatross was moved from vulnerable in 2001 to endangered this year. A concern is the number of drownings caused by birds accidentally caught during long-line fishing.

Overfishing has played a part in the 50 per cent decline of the short-beaked common dolphin over the past four decades, reducing its prey in the Mediterranean.

• The northern stronghold of the native crayfish is under threat, the Environment Agency said yesterday, after the discovery of the aggressive North American signal crayfish in the Derwent near Blaydon, Northumbria.

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And then marry the above with the BBC's "Yes, but can you put cushions and pastel-shadeds in it, and has it got a garden we can 'make-over'??" approach to TV. Disheartening, to say the least...


Wildlife on One faces extinction
By Matt Born
(Filed: 18/11/2003)


The BBC has scrapped Wildlife on One, the longest-running natural history series on television, in order to concentrate on making "event" documentaries including a sequel to the Blue Planet.

The programme, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, who was involved in the launch of the series 26 years ago, will lose its weekly slot from next year.

The move follows a decision by the BBC to focus on so-called "landmark" documentaries - such as the Blue Planet and The Life of Mammals - which are proven ratings winners.

Sir David is currently working on a major new series, Life in the Undergrowth, and is in talks to present the unnamed sequel to the Blue Planet.

The corporation is also planning several new wildlife series, including Animal Camera presented by Steve Leonard, which will use "spy technology to show the natural world as never before".

However, leading wildlife film makers yesterday criticised the loss of Wildlife on One and the shift to more populist programming.

Nick Gordon, an award-winning producer and cameraman on Sir David's Life of Birds, said it was "another nail - or even the final nail - in the natural history coffin on television".

Barry Paine, a veteran wildlife film maker and writer, said the BBC had "fallen for the 'circus syndrome' - snake charmers and lion tamers, who get good ratings but are not proper wildlife programmes". [Bren interjected: that sounds about right; who's that Ozzie [email protected] in the 'nut-cracker' shorts who can make even the paint drying on the inside of a ping-pong ball sound like a comet hitting a swimming-pool type event?]

The last series of Wildlife on One, made by the BBC's natural history unit in Bristol, will be shown next summer.

A BBC spokesman said no decision had yet been taken on the programme's long- term fate.
 

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It's a mighty shame.
Never mind though. In a few years, when the homes of britain have reached MDF saturation, and Linda Barker has become so emaciated she can't be seen with the naked eye, the BBC will have to find something else.

Celebrity White Pointer Baiting?
"See how the Carcharodon Carcharias of Southern California react to the silhouette of our guest star being towed behind a powerboat. This week's celebrity - Jeremy from 'Airport'. "
 
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