Brazil: Atlantic Forest, Southeastern Coast
It's estimated that more than 50 percent of the tree species and 90 percent of the amphibians in this rain forest are found nowhere else, giving it the highest percentage of endemism in the world. Despite outcries against the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon, the Atlantic Forest is in fact at much greater risk of disappearing. About 90 percent of the forest has been cleared for farms, which strip the soil of the nutrients needed for regrowth. The Nature Conservancy helped a local conservation group purchase an area twice the size of Manhattan; actions such as this seem to be the forest's last hope for survival.
Chile: Orongo Ceremonial Site, Easter Island
Strung along a ledge of rock, Easter Island's most important ceremonial site (dating from the 15th century) is bordered by the crater of the Rano Kau volcano on one side and by waves on the other. Structures at the southern end of the complex are decorated with petroglyphs; sadly, recent measurements reveal that these stones have shifted six feet closer to the Pacific in the past 30 years. Continuous rain erosion, exacerbated by foot traffic, is undermining the structures' stability, which may ultimately cause Orongo to fall into the sea.
Nepal: Itum Monastery, Kathmandu
Itum, which dates from approximately 1241, is one of the oldest structures in the Kathmandu Valley. Though many of its architectural details are still intact, its future is nevertheless precarious—the rotted timber roof is on the verge of caving in, and the Nepalese government has no money for repairs.
India: Hampi Monuments
Towering temples and palaces carved with animals and gods; pillared mandapas (stone rest houses); 20-foot statues of Ganesh cut from a single stone—all of these precious relics are found in the former Hindu kingdom of Hampi. In the past five years, however, two suspension bridges and a road have been erected, bringing increased visitors. Worse, building them required the dismantling of an important mandapa.
Don't just curse the loss of these treasures. Contact one of the following conservation agencies to see how you can help.
World Monuments Fund 95 Madison Ave., 9th fl., New York, N.Y.; 646/424-9594.
Nature Conservancy 4245 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100, Arlington, Va.; 800/628-6860.
UNESCO World Heritage Center 7 Place de Fontenoy, Paris; 33-1/4568-1000.