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ENVIRONMENT REPORT – Last Wild Places - 2002-12-26

Broadcast: December 27, 2002

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

More than two-hundred scientists have completed a two-year study to identify the most natural and undeveloped areas on Earth. Their findings are reported in a new book called Wilderness: Earth’s Last Wild Places.

The environmental groups Conservation International and Agrupacion Sierra Madre worked together to produce the book. Conservation International provided money for the project.

The new book describes thirty-seven wilderness areas around the world. Each has an area greater than ten-thousand square kilometers. The study considered only areas where at least seventy percent of all plants are native.

There are wild areas on every continent. North and South America are home to the largest number of wilderness areas. There are sixteen such areas, from southern Argentina to Alaska and northern Canada. Africa has eight wilderness areas, including the thick forests of the Congo and the grasslands of the Serengeti. Australia and New Guinea share six areas. Europe has three areas and Asia has two. The Arabian Desert and Antarctica also are considered wilderness areas.

The largest wilderness area is the Boreal Forest. It extends for sixteen-million square kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. The Boreal Forest extends across Alaska, Canada, northern Europe and Russia.

The smallest of the thirty-seven wilderness areas is the Sundarbans. It is the world’s largest tidal mangrove forest. It covers ten-thousand square kilometers of land at the mouth of the Ganges River in India and Bangladesh.

The study found that wilderness areas cover about forty-six percent of the Earth’s land surface. However, they are home to less than two-and-one-half percent of the world’s population. Nineteen of the wilderness areas have only about one person for each square kilometer. Native people usually live in these areas.

Conservation International President Russell Mittermeier helped create the book. He notes that wilderness areas help to influence the world’s weather systems and rainfall. He says they also are home to many plants and animals.

Mister Mittermeier says population growth and the spread of agriculture and mining operations threaten wilderness areas. He notes that just seven percent of all such areas have some form of official protection.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by George Grow.