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Government urged to protect threatened species

The otter is one of the species that has died out in Switzerland


The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is calling on the government to support the protection of endangered species in Switzerland.

On Wednesday the WWF Switzerland launched the European-wide Emerald Network, which demands the protection of habitats and species under the Bern Convention.

The WWF Switzerland urges the government and cantons to launch education programmes in order to inform the public about the need to protect certain animals, plants and habitats.

In Switzerland there are more than 100 animals, plants and 28 habitats that fall in the category of being "endangered".

However, the Emerald Network aims at looking at the need to protect endangered species not only on a national but also on an international level.

"Nature conservation does not know any borders," said Andreas Weissen, chairman of the Alp Protection Programme of WWF Switzerland.

Switzerland lags behind

Walter Vetterli, project manager of the Swiss Emerald Network voiced his concern that nature conservation in Switzerland was still lagging behind.

"The 1999 OECD report on nature conservation shows that Switzerland's environmental protection is very good on paper but very bad in practice," Vetterli told swissinfo.

"Another report by the Swiss National Science Foundation, which was concluded last month, also proved that we are still behind our European neighbours," Vetterli continued. "The Emerald Network is a direct response to these problems."

Habitat conservation

The Emerald Network was first launched in June 1989, when a standing committee of the Bern Convention, in response to increasing need to protect natural habitats, held a meeting on habitat conservation within the Convention.

According to Vetterli, the network will give experts information on what areas will need special protection.

"The idea is to establish "areas of special conservation interest". We'll put together habitat lists and judging by the degree of threat to species we'll then identify areas that need special protection."

Vetterli also believes strongly that the preservation of flora and fauna is crucial for posterity as it gives the next generation a chance to decide what to do with them.

"There are ethical reasons for the conservation of our nature. I think it's important that human beings protect habitats and species for the next generation. It'll give them the chance to define their own goals for nature conservation."

by Jonathan Summerton and Billi Bierling

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