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Disease Threats from Migratory Animals, UN Agenda

Disease Threats from Migratory Animals On Agenda At UN Environmental
Meeting

The threat from migratory animals as carriers of disease such as bird flu, and the threat to them from climate change figure high on the agenda of a United Nations environmental conference now underway in Nairobi, Kenya.

"We are addressing some highly topical issues – the effects of climate change on wildlife and ecosystem resources, the equally devastating threats posed by the spread of avian influenza and the crises faced by migratory species such as Saharan antelopes which are on the edge of extinction," the Executive Secretary of the UN Environment Programme( UNEP ) Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Robert Hepworth, said.

"We are also in a position to take practical steps at this conference to finalize or implement new agreements to save saiga antelope, forest elephants, bustards, turtles and whales," he added of the 16-25 November conference of the CMS parties.

At a roundtable tomorrow – titled Migratory Species as Vector of
Diseases: Myth or Reality? – internationally-recognized experts and scientists will discuss and help clarify the role of migratory birds both as vectors and victims of avian influenza.

The discussion will then expand to include relationships between other diseases originating in animals, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the haemorrhagic Ebola virus, HIV/AIDS and rabies, and their impact on human health.

A second roundtable will focus on the findings of a recent report underlining that migratory birds and animals are in the front lines of the victims of climate change as their separated and diverse habitats are destroyed by changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, and increases in extreme weather like droughts and floods due to global warming.

The report – Climate Change and Migratory Species – was commissioned by the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs(DEFRA).

CMS, an intergovernmental treaty concluded under UNEP's aegis, seeks to mobilize the necessary political and other resources to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of wildlife and habitats loss at the global, regional and national level. Its membership has grown steadily to include 92 Parties from Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

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