From: Reuters
Published May 27, 2008 01:53 PM

Arctic fox needs help in Nordic region: report

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The arctic fox is inching back from the brink of extinction in the Nordic region, but intensive conservation efforts must continue if the species is to survive in the longer term, a report said on Tuesday.

The Swedish-Finnish-Norwegian Arctic Fox Project has managed to double the number of breeding foxes since starting in 1998, it said in its report.

"We have succeeded in saving the arctic fox and getting the population to grow," said Professor Anders Angerbjorn, who leads the project.

But with about 140 individual animals in Sweden and 215 in the Nordic region, the local population is still considered too limited for long-term survival.

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"The stock is still too small for a species that earlier existed over a greater part of the moorlands," the report said.

"Active support measures are needed to increase the arctic fox's ability to meet rising and falling food supply."

The arctic fox, a priority species according to the European Union's Habitat Directive, was nearly wiped out in the Nordic region by hunters in the early 20th century who were after its prized white fur.

Now global warming is adding to the danger, although the global population of the animal exceeds 100,000.

"Our unique Swedish moorland, which is the habitat of arctic foxes and many other unique animals and plant species, could just be a memory if we don't cut carbon dioxide emissions," said Tom Arnbom of the World Wildlife Fund in Sweden.

A warmer climate has, among other things, helped the spread of red foxes, which, at around 10 kg (22 lb), are twice the size of their arctic cousins and compete for food and territory.

A small and fragmented arctic fox population has also decreased genetic variation, while farmed arctic foxes, which differ from their wild relatives, have escaped into the wild and added to problems.

(Editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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