Britain `failing to protect wildlife'

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The Independent Online
THE UK is bottom of the international league table of wildlife protection, with a worse record of safeguarding its environmentally important areas than many Third World countries, according to Friends of the Earth (FoE).

In a new analysis, the group compares the richest and some of the poorest countries in the world by the proportion of land given over to strict wildlife protection, using data from the World Conservation Union in Switzerland. It reveals that the UK has no land at all that meets the strictest protection criteria, and that even Kenya, Brazil and Ecuador have done better in allocating land for strict conservation.

The FoE research shows that 27 per cent of the internationally important wildlife areas that have been designated in the UK have been damaged since 1991. A website allows the public for the first time to find outabout local wildlife sites and the state of their protection. Backed by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), it details any official records of loss and damage to the areas.

Agriculture and development are the leading causes of damage and FoE said the Government has been criticised for failing to give 1,000 more sites European protection. WWF research detailing many of these missing areas is also included on the Internet site.

The group hopes its claim will put the Government under pressure to introduce a Wildlife Protection Bill in the Queen's Speech. It urges the Prime Minister to back up his pre-election green rhetoric with a tough new law giving full protection to conservation areas.

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