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MANOKWARI, Irian Jaya (Nov. 1, 1999 – ANATARA/Jakarta Post/Kabar Irian)---Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) scientists warned here on Saturday that the number of white cuscus (phalanger urinua) in Irian Jaya was dwindling at an alarming rate and the animal was nearing extinction.

WWF's Duncan Neville noted that illegal poaching and increasing habitat damage were the reasons for the depletion of the animal's number.

He said the cuscus' slow breeding habits presented an obstacle to conservation efforts.

Endemic fauna of the province are now scare, especially after many companies received forest concessions, he said, as quoted by ANTARA.

Conservation efforts, jointly launched by WWF and the local natural resource conservation agency, have faced difficulties because many local people often ignore the programs, the British scientist said.

Neville did not disclose the estimated population of the animal.

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