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CENTER for BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY Because life is good

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Puerto Rico rock frog
Primera Hora, March 17, 2010

Condoms to protect the coqui guajón
By Sara M. Justice Doll

When you’re about to have sex, think about the environment and stop overpopulation.

There are about 6.8 billion people on planet Earth. It is estimated that the world may have as many as 15 billion people by 2050. This would be disastrous for humanity because it is beyond what the planet and its natural resources can support. The carrying capacity of the planet is probably about half of its total population, i.e., only about 3.4 billion individuals.

This is the reason that led the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that works for the conservation of ecologically sensitive sites, to launch a project of distribution of free condoms.

The effort has been successful.

The first 100,000 are already gone, and soon over 250,000 more will be distributed for Earth Day, on 22 April.

The condoms come in six attractive packaging designs depicting six animals in danger of extinction. Puerto Rico caught the attention of the organization, as one of the packages features an image of the guajón coqui, the largest coqui on the Island, which inhabits the Southeast.

To become a distributor of Endangered Species Condoms, go to this web page: http://www.endangeredspeciescondoms.com. There you can also download a ringtone with each animal's distinctive sound.

In an interview with Primera Hora from Tucson, Arizona, Randy Serraglio, conservation advocate at the Center, said polar bears, fish known as the snail darter, the spotted owl, the burying beetle, jaguar, and guajón coqui from Puerto Rico are featured on the packaging of the condoms being distributed to people interested in controlling overpopulation to preserve the environment.

"The coqui guajón lives in a very particular and narrow habitat, caves that are called guajonales, which are very sensitive to disturbances by humans. The runoff from urban development and the excessive and unregulated use of pesticides has threatened the places where they live. After a battle with the federal government that began about 10 years ago, it gained protection in 2007 with the designation of critical habitat,” said Serraglio.

Homo sapiens have absorbed 50 percent of Earth's fresh water and have developed 50 percent of the land. As a result, other species are squeezed out and disappear.

According to data provided by the Center, human overpopulation is a threat to 12 per cent of mammals, 12 percent of birds, 31 percent of reptiles, 30 percent of amphibians, including the guajón, and 37 percent of fish.

Amphibians such as the guajón are indicator species that demonstrate to scientists that the environment is suffering damage. This group of animals is one of the most affected by overpopulation.

In the case of the adorable polar bear, endangerment was at one point conjecture, but now is considered a certain scientific fact.

The Arctic ice is melting, so that pieces of ice which the bears use to move and feed on seals when they emerge from the water to breathe are disappearing. This causes the bears to drown or starve.

In the case of bears, curiously, federal protection was achieved as recently as 2008, against the resistance of the oil companies that locate there.

Between Alaska and Canada there are about 25,000 polar bears, and some populations are declining precipitously.

It's a touchy subject

According to Serraglio, the problem of overpopulation has been a delicate one for years, “one that governments did not want to face, but we must begin to see government action worldwide to ensure that access to contraception is universal."

In the USA, he said, 50 per cent of pregnancies are unplanned, accidental.

In Afghanistan, for example, women still are not able to choose to use contraception to prevent pregnancy.

"These are situations that affect global population stabilization. For this reason we embarked on the Endangered Species Condoms project so that everyone can personally be part of the solution,” said Serraglio.

For his part, amphibian expert Rafael Joglar said the condoms are a great idea.

"On the Island we are experts in destruction. We conserve only 7 percent of our territory, which is shameful, and which puts a lot of pressure on biodiversity and on the people themselves,” said Joglar.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton