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Succulent Karoo to benefit from $8 million in grants

Vanrhynsdorp, South Africa (7 April, 2003)-Local groups working to conserve the Succulent Karoo's biodiversity will receive much-needed assistance through US$8 million in grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF). One of the world's most urgent conservation priorities, this desert in southern Africa boasts the richest variety of succulent plants on Earth, as well as high reptile and invertebrate diversity.

Stretching across southwestern South Africa into southern Namibia, the Succulent Karoo is the only desert on Earth recognized as a biodiversity hotspot--one of 25 highly threatened regions where 60 percent of terrestrial species diversity is found on only 1.4 percent of the Earth's surface. Besides containing an extraordinary wealth of natural resources, nearly one-third of the Succulent Karoo's floral species are found nowhere else.

"The Succulent Karoo's levels of plant diversity and unique species rival those of rain forests yet its biodiversity is decreasing at an alarming rate," said Jorgen Thomsen, CEPF executive director and Conservation International senior vice president. "The time to act is now. Our investment will empower and enable local people to get involved in biodiversity conservation and ensure benefits for future generations."

CEPF aims to invest at least US$150 million in Earth's biologically richest yet most threatened areas. It is a joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the World Bank and the Japanese government. In the Succulent Karoo, the partnership will provide the US$8 million (approximately R64 million and N$64 million) in grants to nongovernmental organizations, community groups and private sector partners.

"This is tremendous news for biodiversity conservation in Africa," said Brian Huntley, the chief executive officer for the National Botanical Institute in South Africa. "Long neglected, the Su
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Contact: Tessa Mildenhall
mildenhall@nbict.nbi.ac.za
082-415-2902
Conservation International
8-Apr-2003


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