Amazonian river basin protected by President Lula

One of the world's most ambitious conservation efforts to date has now begun after two major new protected areas in the Amazon were announced this week by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

He said the decision to protect 3.7 million hectares in the Terra do Meio Ecological Station and the Serra do Pardo National Park had been made in an effort to fight deforestation and land conflicts in the Brazilian state of Para.

"Conservation in the Amazon takes a giant step forward with this decree," chief conservation officer for WWF-US, Carter Roberts stated. "With these two critical pieces in place, we are creating a mosaic of contiguous protected areas, reserves and indigenous territories connecting the savannah ecosystem of the south to the rainforests of the central Amazon."

Totalling an area twice the size of the US state of Massachusetts, the two parks are both located in the state of Para, where American nun Sister Dorothy Stang was murdered just over a week ago because of her outspoken efforts to help landless peasants and wildlife in the area.

An ecological corridor measuring 25 million hectares will now be established, running through the Xingu river basin, connecting the Cerrado savannah and Amazon forest ecosystems through protected parks and reserves.

"Creating these protected areas is a vital measure to stop deforestation and pacify land conflicts in this region," WWF Brazil's conservation director Rosa Lemos said. "A corridor this size will guarantee the maintenance of long-term ecological processes, as well as the basis needed for the maintenance of evolutionary processes of species in the Xingu river basin."

The development will also protect threatened species native to the area, including jaguars, macaws and harpy eagles.

"We congratulate President Lula for his leadership in moving this forward," Mr Roberts concluded.

By Jane Kettle



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