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Facts and Figures

Background - November 21, 2005

Rubber tappers in Jurua Extractive Reserve, Amazon, Brazil.

Destruction of the Amazon Rainforest

Illegal and destructive logging is one of the biggest threats to theAmazon Rainforest with between 60 and 80 percent of logging being illegal.

Between August 2003 and August 2004, 26,130 square km, 2.6 millionhectares of forest was destroyed, this was the second highest inBrazilian history.

In the last 30 years, we have lost 15 percent of the BrazilianAmazon - 50 million hectares, an area the size of France, bigger thanall of Japan or the state of Texas and almost the size of Chile.

Around 1,000 of Brazil's recorded species of higher plants and animals are considered under immediate threat of extinction.

A handful of large companies from Europe, Asia and the US controlmore than 12 percent of the Amazon's timber processing capacity andalmost half of the export value.

Over the past 10 years the production of industrial round wood inthe Brazilian Amazon increased by approximately 19 percent over theprevious decade. Areas designated for protection increased onlymarginally, from 3.8 to 4.4 percent of Brazil's landmass.

Productive conservation

If all traditional indigenous territory in Brazil was officiallymapped and demarcated, approximately 20 percent of the Amazonrainforest would gain protected status.

Over two-thirds of all mass-produced pharmaceutical drugs arederived from medicinal plants. According to the World HealthOrganisation (WHO), 80 percent of the world's people use plants totreat a wide range of illnesses from headaches to infections. Themedicinal potential of plants of the Amazon has only just begun to berealised internationally. At present, close to 650 species of plantwith pharmaceutical properties and economic value from the Amazon havebeen assessed.

Forty-eight native fruits of the Amazon have been identified ashaving the potential for sale on the international market. The fruitsof the Acai Palm found in the Amazon, are traditionally used to make atype of juice that is rich in minerals. A single palm tree produces upto 20 kg of fruit per year. In 1995 almost 106,000 tonnes of juice wasproduced at a value of US$40 million.

Eco-tourism in the Amazon has huge potential but is at presentmanaged in an unsatisfactory way. Eco-tourism has the potential toguarantee minimal environmental impact on the Amazon rainforest throughthe application of environmentally friendly technologies andenvironmentally sympathetic accommodation for visitors. It could alsoguarantee that the income received from such activities would directlybenefit the local communities.

"Short of a miraculous transformation inthe attitude of people and governments, the Earth's remaining closedcanopy forests and their associated biodiversity are destined todisappear in the coming decades," said Klaus Toepfer, Director of theUnited National Environment Program, on August 21, 2001.