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Home of snow leopard and flying frog under threat from climate change

The WWF is calling on governments attending the climate change talks in Copenhagen this December to commit industrialised countries to a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels).

“There is no room for compromise on this issue,” says WWF Conservation Science advisor, Mark Wright.  “Without these cuts the Himalayas face a precarious future – impacting both the unique wildlife and the 20% of humanity who rely on the river systems that arise in these mountains.”

A report released by WWF International yesterday “Eastern Himalayas – Where Worlds Collide” makes us realise just how important and fragile the ecosystem of the Himalayas is.

It reveals the discovery of over 350 new species of plants and animals in the last ten years. An amazing number of animals and plants we never knew existed – including a beautiful ‘flying frog’ with huge webbed feet that help it glide through the air. Researchers also found the world’s smallest deer, the miniature muntjac or leaf deer (just over 60 cm or two feet tall).

These and the many other species found between 1998 and 2008 share the habitat of the endangered snow leopard in remote mountain areas of Bhutan, north-eastern India, northern Myanmar (Burma), Nepal and southern parts of Tibet.

The Report reveals despite these areas being remote they are experiencing massive population growth and demand for land which is threatening many habitats and species.  Another indicator of climate change in the region is the rapid retreat of glaciers. The WWF has launched a “Climate for Life Campaign” to bring the plight of the Himalayas to the attention of the world. They are working with local communities to help them cope with the impacts of climate change.

“This enormous cultural and biological diversity underscores the fragile nature of an environment which risks being lost forever unless the impacts of climate change are reversed,” said Tariq Aziz, the leader of WWF’s Living Himalayas Initiative.

“People and wildlife form a rich mosaic of life across this rugged and remarkable landscape, making it among the biologically richest areas on Earth. But the Himalayas are also among the most vulnerable to global climate change.”


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