A deal to destroy

Published: Sunday 15 July 2001

The caves of Christmas Island< (Credit: RAULEIGH WEBB)the unique species of Christmas Island are being threatened by a deal between the Australian and Russian governments to launch commercial rockets from there. The Australian-run island is located in the Indian Ocean and has a major unexplored cave system. Biologists say that the launch site on the island's south point is right over a partly-flooded limestone cave system that could contain undiscovered endemic species. A national park is also situated less than a kilometre away from the site.

In past explorations, scientists have discovered 12 new underground species, including two blind cockroaches and a blind scorpion. "The chemicals to be used for the launches could leak and wreck the unique underground ecosystem," fears Bill Humphries, an expert of subterranean fauna from the Western Australian University in Perth. Environment Australia, a government agency, claims that the noise pollution from the launches would also pose a threat for the area's seabird colonies.

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