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Threatened Vietnam cave bugs draw little sympathy

HON CHONG, Vietnam — Hundreds of species live in the limestone caves of Hon Chong in southern Vietnam, and many are found nowhere else on Earth. Yet their habitat is being blown apart, chunk by chunk, in the name of making cement.

One reason, biologists lament, is that these are creatures no one would want to hug, and many would want to stomp. Spiders. Mites. Millipedes.

People who have been trying to save them from extinction have found few allies in government, in industry or among local residents.

The degradation of Asia's limestone ecosystems is continuing apace as the region's demand for cement grows. The Swiss-Vietnamese venture mining limestone in Hon Chong says it's being environmentally responsible, but much of its conservation work is directed at animals like monkeys and cranes.