MORE ANIMAL SPECIES SLIDE TO EXTINCTION

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MORE ANIMAL SPECIES SLIDE TO EXTINCTION

 user 2006-05-02 at 11:29:00 am Views: 50
  • #15152

    More species slide to extinction
    The
    polar bear and hippopotamus are for the first time listed as species
    threatened with extinction by the world’s biodiversity agency.

    They
    are included in the Red List of Threatened Species published by the
    World Conservation Union (IUCN) which names more than 16,000 at-risk
    species.
    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.
    “The
    2006 Red List shows a clear trend; biodiversity loss is increasing, not
    slowing down,” said IUCN director-general Achim Steiner.
    “The
    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.
    This
    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
    They
    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.
    Polar
    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
    years.
    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.
    “Regional
    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
    Jeffrey McNeely.
    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.
    Marine misery
    For the first time, this year’s Red List includes a comprehensive region-by-region assessment on some groups of marine animals
    It
    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.
    Some
    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.
    The IUCN
    says that with fisheries extending into ever deeper zones of the ocean
    which are largely unregulated, populations of many species are set to
    decline sharply.
    “The desperate situation of many sharks and rays is
    just the tip of the iceberg,” said Craig Hilton-Taylor of the IUCN Red
    List Unit.
    “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.
    Fifty-six
    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.
    Limited success
    It is not all doom and gloom.
    The
    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.
    The
    number of white-tailed eagles has soared in many European nations, and
    the bird’s status has been downgraded from Near Threatened to Least
    Concern.
    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
    success.
    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.