once, the stable door has been locked with the horse still safe inside."
WWF's International Treaties Coordinator
know what? My favourite part of the world, the Antarctic, is finally safe.
Yes, it's true. A treaty has at last been signed by all the 26 states
which have an interest in our continent to ban all mining or oil exploration
there for the next 50 years. By then, I'm sure you people will have come
to your senses. Meantime, any human visitors will have to ask permission
before entering the region (what you call 60 degrees South of the equator,
a bit further north than the Antarctic circle). Take a look at the map
I've drawn you especially. That's a view as if you were in space, looking
down at the South Pole.
Treaty is quite something for my friends who live there. Most animals
and plants seem to be pushed into small reserves but not here. Of course,
there are no animals which actually live permanently in the Antarctic,
but the seas around our icy land simply teem with life. My cousins, the
Emperor penguins, hatch their eggs during our long cold winter, standing
in big groups on the ice. But most of us seek the relative warmth and
abundance of food which the seas and oceans provide for us.
You might wonder what animals do live in and around the Antarctic. Almost
all are air-breathing animals like you and me, seals, whales, my penguin
friends and other birds. But in the seas, there are all kinds of fish
and other creatures which either swim about (like krill, a sort of shrimpy
animal) or sea-floor dwellers. You might be surprised to know that there
are even plants which grow in certain places on the land. Not many, it's
true. But the seas abound with tiny plants called phytoplankton (phyto=plant,
plankton=floating life ... I looked that up in the dictionary in
case you were wondering, like me). These minute plants are the base of
the food chain. All of us animals depend on them just as you people depend
on plants for all your food though you, like me, may eat some other animal
which eats the plants (like a cow). My food - fish - eat the krill
which gobble up the phytoplankton. That's our web of life.
So we Antarcticans are very happy that we are to be left more-or-less
in peace for the time being. There are some problems still with 'pirate
fishing' by greedy people which hurt some of my friends. (Look at Dying
Penguins for that story.) But for now, let's all feel happy about
this wonderful treaty. It's a big step in the right direction. Well done,
people! You can do it if you try.
January 25th 1998
to know more? Here's a link or two:
"Historic Antarctic Protection Agreement Becomes Law" with some nice photos
of my friends the macaronis, chinstraps and adelie penguins.
on the International Year of the Ocean