For 40 years, scientists and the general public have relied on a somber document called the Red List to chronicle the vulnerability—and often the extinction—of birds, mammals, and earth's other creatures. The annual publication has come to be seen as an environmental indicator of habitat destruction, pollution, and other human effects on nature.

So when Brazil's environment ministry released its most current figures in May, there was both surprise and sadness: The diversity-rich nation's count of endangered species had shot up from 219 in 1989 to 398 in 2002, at a time when scientists and policymakers maintain that they're combating biodiversity loss. Was it the usual suspects? Deforestation? The result of road-cutting through once isolated Amazon forests?

Not really, said Brazilian entomologist and Red List compiler Angelo Machado of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. "There was no increase in destruction of habitat. Period," Machado told the UN Wire...

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