MORE ANIMAL SPECIES SLIDE TO EXTINCTION
MORE ANIMAL SPECIES SLIDE TO EXTINCTION
2006-05-02 at 11:29:00 am #15152
More species slide to extinction
polar bear and hippopotamus are for the first time listed as species
threatened with extinction by the world’s biodiversity agency.
are included in the Red List of Threatened Species published by the
World Conservation Union (IUCN) which names more than 16,000 at-risk
Many sharks, and freshwater fish in Europe and Africa, are newly included.
The IUCN says loss of biodiversity is increasing despite a global convention committing governments to stem it.
2006 Red List shows a clear trend; biodiversity loss is increasing, not
slowing down,” said IUCN director-general Achim Steiner.
implications of this trend for the productivity and resilience of
ecosystems and the lives and livelihoods of billions of people who
depend on them are far-reaching.”
Overall, 16,119 species are
included in this year’s Red List, the most detailed and authoritative
regular survey of the health of the plant and animal kingdoms.
represents more than a third of the total number of species surveyed;
the list includes one in three amphibians, a quarter of coniferous
trees, and one in four mammals.
Climate and hunting
Polar bears are particularly affected by loss of Arctic ice, which the IUCN attributes to climatic change.
IUCN’S SCALE OF THREAT
Extinct – Surveys suggest last known individual has died
Critically Endangered – Extreme high risk of extinction|
Endangered – Species at very high risk of extinction
Vulnerable – Species at high risk of extinction
Near Threatened – May soon move into above categories
Least Concern – Species is widespread and abundant
need ice floes in order to hunt seals and other prey; without it, their
food supply will decline. There is also evidence that the snow caves
where they raise their young are melting earlier in the year.
bears are listed as Vulnerable to Extinction based on forecasts that
their population will decline by 50% to 100% over the next 50 to 100
In the tropics, the common hippopotamus has entered the Red
List for the first time because the population in the Democratic
Republic of Congo has declined spectacularly – by about 95% in a decade.
The country’s turbulent political situation has allowed unregulated hunting for meat and for the ivory in their teeth.
conflicts and political instability in some African countries have
created hardship for many of the region’s inhabitants, and the impact
on wildlife has been equally devastating,” said IUCN chief scientist
The common hipppo’s decline in DRC has led to a
Vulnerable listing even though other African populations including the
largest, in Zambia, have held up well.
The much less well known
pygmy hippo has suffered from illegal logging and poor protection in
several West African nations, leading to an upgrade in its status from
Vulnerable to Endangered.
For the first time, this year’s Red List includes a comprehensive region-by-region assessment on some groups of marine animals
shows that sharks and rays – members of the elasmobranch group of fish
- are disappearing at an unprecedented rate across the globe.
About 20% of the 547 species surveyed merit inclusion on the Red List.
of these are fish which were once common on dinner plates in the UK and
surrounding countries. The angel shark has been declared Extinct in the
North Sea and Critically Endangered globally, while the common skate’s
status has also been upgraded to Critically Endangered.
says that with fisheries extending into ever deeper zones of the ocean
which are largely unregulated, populations of many species are set to
“The desperate situation of many sharks and rays is
just the tip of the iceberg,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor of the IUCN Red
“It is critical that urgent action to greatly improve
management practices and implement conservation measures, such as
agreed non-fishing areas, enforced mesh-size regulations and
international catch limits is taken before it is too late.”
In the Mediterranean, freshwater fish are faring even worse than their sea-going counterparts.
percent of the 252 species endemic to the Mediterranean are threatened
with extinction, the IUCN says; while in East Africa, a quarter of
freshwater fish are at risk, which could carry important consequences
for a human population highly dependent on fish for protein.
It is not all doom and gloom.
first optimistic note is that the overall number of species in this Red
List is not significantly higher than in the last edition published in
November 2004, which numbered 15,589 species on the brink.
The second is that the number of species believed to have gone extinct has also not changed significantly.
The IUCN notes some marked conservation successes among the much more frequent stories of a slide towards oblivion.
number of white-tailed eagles has soared in many European nations, and
the bird’s status has been downgraded from Near Threatened to Least
A recent decision by the Indian government to phase out a
veterinary drug which was poisoning the common vulture, causing numbers
to fall by 97%, is also cited as a simple measure which can bring great
But the overall message is that the number and range of
species continues to decline, despite the UN Biodiversity Convention
which commits governments to halt the trend by 2010.