Deforestation and illegal animal trade have done enormous damage to the species of Brazil over the last 20 years. The country's list of endangered animals now stands at 627 species -- 288% higher than the 218 species that were on the same list in 1989.

It's not clear if this is the first major revision to Brazil's endangered list since '89, but it's a significant update: 489 species were added to the list, while 79 were considered recovered enough to be dropped from the list.

Environment Minister Carlos Minc said "Industry is expanding, agriculture is expanding, people are occupying protected areas and our conservation units do not have the protection needed," but "We'll fight to remove the largest number of species possible from that list."

Minc reported that 90% of Brazil's Atlantic rainforest, where most of these newly endangered species reside, has been chopped down. More than 232,000 square miles of Brazilian forest have been destroyed since 1970.

Minc took over as Environment Minister earlier this year, after his predecessor, Marina Silva, resigned, citing government "stagnation" in the fight against deforestation.

Story by John Platt. This article originally appeared in Plenty in November 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008