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|May 23, 9:50 am CT|
The Project: Preserve United States Wilderness
"Palmyra is a jewel of America's Pacific coral reefs. It should be protected from exploitation and be a place where future generations can for all time marvel at the pristine natural wonders of the nation's tropical seas."
The Palmyra Atoll is a thousand miles south of Hawaii, an untold distance from civilization. It is the last intact marine wilderness in the U.S. tropics. Its pristine waters harbor five times as many coral species as the Florida Keys, and its shores offer one of the few nesting areas for seabirds within 450,000 square miles. Palmyra's 54 islets offer a relatively untouched sanctuary to many species.
At one time, Palmyra was proposed to become a nuclear waste dump. To preserve Palmyra's biological diversity, The Nature Conservancy recentlyprotected the atoll for $37 million, including endowment and infrastructure costs. Many Nature Conservancy members have made donations to help repay the loans that enabled the purchase and to secure Palmyra's long-term protection. Still, millions more must be raised. Please help.
Palmyra's unusual submerged coral reefs jut seaward for miles beyond the islets. With more than 130 species, the atoll's reefs support three times the number of coral species found in the Caribbean and Hawaii and five times the number of species found in the Florida Keys. Palmyra's biodiversity holds great promise for future generations as scientists look to coral for potential cures and new medicines.
Palmyra's waters teem with wildlife, including species that are being wiped out in other parts of the world. Endangered Hawaiian monk seals have been reported here. Pods of dolphins swim outside the reefs. Other species at Palmyra include manta rays, mullets, fusiliers, snappers, green and hawksbill sea turtles, bumphead parrotfish, pilot whales, humphead wrasses, sharks, other rays, jacks, goat-fish, tuna, butterflyfish, damselfish, surgeonfish, rare giant clams, black-lipped pearl shells, and pen shells. In addition, healthy populations of bonefish occupy the shallow lagoon flats.
Palmyra also hosts the coconut crab, the worlds largest land invertebrate, which is able to husk and devour coconuts. Many green sea turtles, a threatened species, have been seen in the lagoons and rare hawksbill sea turles are also seen regularly.
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