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Species numbers wane in 2008

The populations of several animal species dwindled in Switzerland this year, according to the WWF's list of winners and losers of 2008.

The environmental organisation said Switzerland lost its wild brown bear population, with one of the animals migrating to Austria and the other killed after posing a danger by coming too close to people's homes.

The cottontail rabbit became very rare in the country as a result of epidemics and urban sprawl, a reflection of the 95 per cent drop in the population across Europe since 1950.

Salmon however made a return to a river near Basel after a nearly 50-year absence in Switzerland.

Around 40 per cent of plant and animals species on the planet are under threat, WWF added.

Among the global losers of 2008 was the red tuna, which is on the verge of extinction. WWF has advised people to stop eating the fish, which has been withdrawn from Switzerland's biggest retailers, Migros and Coop.

Elsewhere the number of rhinoceros surpassed the 1997 level of 11,000, rising to 18,500 thanks to a protection programme. Fears over the gorilla population lessened after a large grouping was discovered in north Congo.


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