Extinction crisis continues apace
The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows that 17,291 species out of the 47,677 assessed species are threatened with extinction.
BirdLife International is the Red List Authority for birds and released the 2009 update for birds earlier in the year, listing 192 species of bird as Critically Endangered, the highest threat category, a total of two more than in the 2008 update. But the update did highlight some successes, including the downlisting of Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari, from Critically Endangered to Endangered, as a direct result of targeted conservation action.
"In global terms, things continue to get worse Ė but there are some real conservation success stories this year to give us hope and point the way forward", said Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife's Director of Science and Policy.
Of the world's 9,998 birds, 137 are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, with 192 Critically Endangered, 362 Endangered and 669 Vulnerable.
The results of the full Red List update reveal 21% of mammals, 30% of amphibians, 12% of birds, and 28% of reptiles, 37% of freshwater fishes, 70% of plants, 35% of invertebrates assessed so far are under threat.
"The scientific evidence of a serious extinction crisis is mounting", says Jane Smart, Director of IUCN's Biodiversity Conservation Group. "January sees the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity. The latest analysis of the IUCN Red List shows the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss will not be met. It's time for governments to start getting serious about saving species and make sure itís high on their agendas for next year, as we're rapidly running out of time."
Of the world's 5,490 mammals, 79 are Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, with 188 Critically Endangered, 449 Endangered and 505 Vulnerable. Eastern Voalavo Voalavo antsahabensis appears on the IUCN Red List for the first time in the Endangered category. This rodent, endemic to Madagascar, is confined to montane tropical forest and is under threat from slash-and-burn farming.
There are now 1,677 reptiles on the IUCN Red List, with 293 added this year. In total, 469 are threatened with extinction and 22 are already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. The 165 endemic Philippine species new to the IUCN Red List include Panay Monitor Lizard Varanus mabitang, which is Endangered. This highly-specialized monitor lizard is threatened by habitat loss due to agriculture and logging and is hunted by humans for food. Sail-fin Water Lizard Hydrosaurus pustulatus enters in the Vulnerable category and is also threatened by habitat loss. Hatchlings are heavily collected both for the pet trade and for local consumption.
"The world's reptiles are undoubtedly suffering, but the picture may be much worse than it currently looks", says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCNís Species Survival Commission. "We need an assessment of all reptiles to understand the severity of the situation but we donít have the $2-3 million to carry it out."
"In global terms, things continue to get worse" —Dr Leon Bennun, BirdLife
The IUCN Red List shows that 1,895 of the planet's 6,285 amphibians are in danger of extinction, making them the most threatened group of species known to date. Of these, 39 are already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild, 484 are Critically Endangered, 754 are Endangered and 657 are Vulnerable.
Kihansi Spray Toad Nectophrynoides asperginis has moved from Critically Endangered to Extinct in the Wild. The species was only known from the Kihansi Falls in Tanzania, where it was formerly abundant with a population of at least 17,000. Its decline is due to the construction of a dam upstream of the Kihansi Falls that removed 90 percent of the original water flow to the gorge. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis was probably responsible for the toadís final population crash.
The fungus also affected Rabb's Fringe-limbed Treefrog Ecnomiohyla rabborum, which enters the Red List as Critically Endangered. It is known only from central Panama. In 2006, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis was reported in its habitat and only a single male has been heard calling since. This species has been collected for captive breeding efforts but all attempts have so far failed.
Of the 12,151 plants on the IUCN Red List, 8,500 are threatened with extinction, with 114 already Extinct or Extinct in the Wild. The Queen of the Andes Puya raimondii has been reassessed and remains in the Endangered category. Found in the Andes of Peru and Bolivia, it only produces seeds once in 80 years before dying. Climate change may already be impairing its ability to flower and cattle roam freely among many colonies, trampling or eating young plants.
But it's not all doom and gloom, conservation does work and there are some great examples in this year's Red List. In Brazil, Lear's Macaw Anodorhynchus leari has been downlisted from Critically Endangered. Named after the English poet, this spectacular blue parrot has increased four-fold in numbers as a result of a joint effort of many national and international non-governmental organisations, the Brazilian government and local landowners.
In New Zealand, Chatham Petrel Pterodroma axillaris has benefited from work by the New Zealand Department of Conservation and has consequently been downlisted from Critically Endangered. And in Mauritius the stunning, Mauritius Fody Foudia rubra has been rescued from the brink after the translocation and establishment of a new population on to a predator-free offshore island. It has now been downlisted to Endangered.
"Both the petrel and fody have suffered from introduced invasive species, and tackling these is one of the 10 key actions needed to prevent further bird extinctions that BirdLife has indentified. What this year's Red List changes tell us is that we can still turn things around for species. There just has to be the will to act and the resources to back this up", said Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Research and Indicators Coordinator.
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