Rare animals get U.N. protection

The great white shark, river dolphins, several types of whales, and an unusual two-humped camel are among animals that were designated on Sept. 24 to receive new or heightened protection under the Convention on Migratory Species, a U.N. treaty.

Meeting in Bonn, Germany, delegates placed the great white shark in the treaty’s Appendix I. Such a listing bans the 80 nations that have ratified the treaty from catching or harming the species inside their boundaries. It also requires the nations to protect the species’ habitat.

Three whale species–fin, sperm, and sei–also made it into Appendix I, along with the nearly extinct Ganges and Indus River dolphins (Platanista gangetica gangetica) in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. These virtually blind freshwater dolphins, which navigate by sonar, are threatened by pollution, hunting, and entanglements in fishnets.

Perhaps the most unusual animals added to Appendix I are the 300 hairy-kneed camels, found in three isolated pockets of China and Mongolia–including a former nuclear test range. They survive on salt water, and scientists suspect they’re a new species.

Even nations that haven’t ratified the Convention on Migratory Species, such as the United States, Japan, Russia, and China, sometimes adopt its policies.

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Janet Raloff

Janet Raloff is the editor of Science News for Students, a daily online magazine for middle school students. She started at Science News in 1977 as the environment and policy writer.

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