Environmental activists use the cell phone to call attention to issues of diversity

ALBUQUERQUE: Amid the cacophony of cell phone ringtones these days, add these: the clickety-click-click of a rare Central American poison arrow dart frog, the howl of a Mexican gray wolf and the bellows of an Arctic beluga whale.

A U.S. environmental group is hoping that if people hear these sounds from threatened animals on cell phones, they will wonder where they came from and question the fate of the animals and birds that make them.

"The point here is education and inspiration," said a conservation advocate at the Centre for Biological Diversity in New Mexico.

Like other activist groups, the centre is looking to the immediate attention cell phones can bring to its cause. Already, some 24,000 people have downloaded the rare rings for free from the centre's website.

Four in five voting-age Americans have cells phones, and that number is expected to keep growing. By 2008, as many as 30 per cent of wireless users are likely to forego their land lines and nearly all cell phones will have Internet capabilities, according to a study by the New Politics Institute.

"With the ringtones, this is the tip of the iceberg," said Peter Leyden, director of the institute, which studies the impact of cell phones what he and others call "mobile media" on political and social campaigns.

Peter Galvin, a co-founder of the Centre for Biological Diversity, came up with the idea for the free ringtones of endangered and rare species as a way to educate people especially the younger, technologically savvy generation. "And with young people, it has to be interesting and it has to be cool," he said. AP

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