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Germany

Saving The World's Ancient Forests

Greenpeace is urging governments worldwide to take action to immediately stop their role in the destruction of ancient forests. Activists have been preventing ships from unloading timber cargo in many European ports.

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Activists post "Destruction of Ancient Forests" on this timber ship in the port of Hamburg.

Fourteen Greenpeace activists climbed onboard the vessel Agat earlier this week as the ship was preparing to depart Ijmuiden in the Netherlands.

Four climbers ascended the vessel's cranes, while other one locked himself to the anchor chain. The cargo: several hundred logs of ancient forest timber from Liberia.

The action is part of Greenpeace's Ancient Forest campaign. The group is protesting the destruction of the world's ancient forests through the global timber trade.

Greenpeace says that with only 20 percent of the world's original forests left, those that remaining are also in danger of disappearing. Industrial logging poses the single largest threat to their survival.

Destroying natural habitats

The environmental group has initiated recent blockades against logging companies in several ports in Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands. "These companies are logging in some of Africa's most endangered ancient forests, which provide the last refuge for threatened animals like the forest elephant, the chimpanzee and the pygmy hippopotamus," says Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Catherine Cotton.

But the logging companies are not the only ones to blame, Greenpeace says. "If Europe and other importing nations continue to buy logs and wood from companies like these - companies that have no regard for either the environment or the law - these forests will not survive and nor will the plants, animals or human cultures that depend on them," she adds.

All talk, no action?

In April, representatives from the 189 UN nations will meet in The Hague, the Netherlands for the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. They will have a mandate to agree on a 10-year program on forests in preparation for the Rio +10 summit, which will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2002.

Greenpeace’s Cotton says that ten years ago, at the Earth Summit in Rio, these governments promised to save the world's ancient forests. "But in the last ten years, the forest industry is as bad as ever," she says.

"Deforestation levels have risen and species face the greatest risk of extinction since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. For ten years, the governments have done nothing but talk."

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