Research Handbook on International Environmental Law
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Research Handbook on International Environmental Law

Edited by Malgosia Fitzmaurice, David M. Ong and Panos Merkouris

This wide-ranging and comprehensive Handbook examines recent developments in international environmental law (IEL) and the crossover effects of this expansion on other areas of international law, such as trade law and the law of the sea.
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Chapter 24: International Environmental Law Governing Threats to Biological Diversity

David M. Ong


* David M. Ong Introduction States have an obvious self-interest in ensuring the prudent use of (non-living) natural resources such as oil, coal and gas, not only to maintain present needs but also to provide for the needs of future generations.1 Plants and animals, on the other hand, have traditionally been perceived as a type of (living) natural resource which unlike coal and gas constitute a resource capable of self-renewal, provided appropriate steps are taken to conserve existing populations. Threats to wildlife species, their habitats and natural ecosystems in general arise from a variety of sources. Various species have been captured through the centuries for food. Exploitation has taken numerous forms, such as hunting for skins, feathers, and other products used or traded by mankind; capturing for display in zoos, for scientific research, keeping as pets, and for medicinal, cultural, religious and artistic purposes, amongst others. However, it is now apparent that the conservation of living resources cannot be achieved merely by controlling the means for their exploitation by humankind. In particular, wild plants and animals cannot be conserved simply by focusing on the protection of individual species through controls over human activities impinging directly upon such species. Their protection also requires the preservation of their habitat and the complementary protection of related and dependent species, as well as the non-living elements of the environment on which they all rely (Birnie and Boyle, 2002: 4). The focus of international legal regulation has therefore shifted to that of overall ecosystem protection, aimed...

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