An ambitious effort to catalogue all the species living in Costa Rica and find sustainable ways of exploiting them is under threat because funds are running out.
Last month, the National Biodiversity Institute (INBio) began terminating contracts for one-third of the 50 researchers tasked with describing and recording the nation's rich biodiversity.
The institute, set up in 1989, had been hailed as one of the first to champion the economic importance of conserving biodiversity.
INBio also tried to be self-sufficient. It set up pioneering deals with pharmaceutical companies looking for new chemicals in wild species, which brought in royalties. Many of INBio's projects now fund themselves.
But 90 per cent of the inventory programme's budget came from two seven-year grants that will run out by the end of 2005.
Most job losses are in the institute's insect department, considered one of the best collections of specimens in Latin America.
INBio officials hope that the setback is temporary and that staff will be rehired by 2007.But observers say that the institute's managers were not aggressive enough in pursuing funding. They say INBio — which is a non-governmental organisation — needs either government funding or a multi-million dollar endowment to secure the future of its inventory programme.
Link to full news story in Science