Published: Sunday 31 October 1999

How long? Logging operations i Fifteen years ago, Brazilians did not even have a name for the lush, tropical rainforest that tumbles from seaside mountains to the ocean along much of the nation's Atlantic coast. They came up with a name just in time. The Mata Atlantica or the Atlantic rain forest, is now one of the five most-threatened regions in the world, according to environmentalists.

While environmentalists around the globe cried out against destruction of the vast Amazon jungle, Brazilians hacked away at what was left of the Atlantic forest after centuries of logging and the onslaught of sugar plantations. Only seven per cent of the original forest remains.

"Brazil's Atlantic forest is one of the richest areas in the world, but unfortunately it is a hot spot in terms of environmental threat," said Russell Mittermeier, president of the us -based Conservation International. "It's one of the five top environmental priorities globally," he added.

Conservation International and Brazil's sos Mata Atlantica environmental group launched a "zero deforestation" plan in June this year. Using satellite images, they are scrambling to document thousands of animal and plant species in the most-endangered areas, promoting alternative forms of income and enforcing laws that make it illegal to cut down trees in the region.

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