Government???s Natural Heritage Department will join countries around the world in observing International Day for Biological Diversity tomorrow, Friday, May 22.

In keeping with this year???s theme, ???Invasive Alien Species,??? the department will be putting the spotlight on the Giant African Snail and the African Green Monkey, two pests which have been posing both health and economic threats to householders as well as farmers.

Invasive alien species are deemed to be one of the greatest threats to biodiversity, and to the ecological and economic well-being of society and the planet.

To mark the day, the Natural Heritage Department will host students of the Wesley Hall Infants School on a tour of the Barbados Primate Research Centre and Wildlife Reserve at Farley Hill, St. Peter, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

During the tour, students will learn more about the two invasive pests as talks will be given by???? a government entomologist and an official from the Wildlife Reserve. A similar exercise was held for students of Holy Innocents Primary today.

In December 2000, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the day in an effort to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues.

Invasive alien species are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health. In particular, they impact adversely upon biodiversity, including decline or elimination of native species – through competition, predation, or transmission of pathogens – and the disruption of local ecosystems and their functions.

Once introduced and, or spread outside their natural habitats, invasive alien species have affected native biodiversity in almost every ecosystem on earth and are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Since the 17th century, they have contributed to nearly 40 percent of all animal extinctions for which the cause is known. (Convention on Biological Diversity, (CBD) -2006).

The problem continues to grow at great socio-economic, health and ecological cost around the world. Invasive alien species exacerbate poverty and threaten development through their impact on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and natural systems. The damage is aggravated by climate change, pollution, habitat loss and human-induced disturbance.

The choice of theme is in an effort to provide parties to the CBD, and those dealing with invasive alien species an opportunity to raise awareness of the issue and increase practical action to tackle the problem.

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