STATE OF THE PLANET
* Conservation group adds 200 animals to endangered list
* Extinction Risk Grows Around the World
* Red List of Threatened Species Reveals Global Extinction Crisis
* Growing Threat to Rare Species
Conservation group adds 200 animals to endangered list
Source: Copyright 2000, Cable News Network
Date: September 28, 2000
GLAND, Switzerland (CNN) -- Citing a dramatic increase in the number of species threatened with extinction, the World Conservation Union released its "red list" of endangered plants and animals Thursday. In the first update of the list in four years, 11,046 plants and animals were said to be "facing a high risk of extinction in the near future, in almost all cases as a result of human activities."
The new list adds over 200 animal species worldwide to the most critically endangered list, including 11 mammals, 14 birds and 38 reptiles.
While habitat loss -- largely through deforestation and the spread of cities -- is a factor in roughly 90 percent of the endangered listings, the group highlighted three types of animals under attack from specific human threats.
Six primate species were added the list, largely due to the "bush meat" trade in parts of Asia and Africa. Animals like the red-shanked douc langur of Vietnam Official Red List and Laos are increasingly targeted site for meat for human consumption.
Thirteen different species of albatross have been placed on the list. The conservation union said the large seabirds are victims of longline fisheries -- where vessels trail miles-long steel cables with hundreds of baited hooks.
Reptile species like the Asian three-striped box turtle are under threat due to their value to the Asian traditional medicine trade. World Conservation Union Director Maritta von Bieberstein Koch-Weser said the growing list is further confirmation that a wave of species loss -- often speculated by scientists -- is well under way. "These findings should be taken very seriously by the global community," she said.
Human activity was cited as the cause of 816 plant and animal species having vanished in the past 500 years. However, the conservation group cautions that our knowledge of how many species exist -- or used to exist -- is still partial.
The 5,611 threatened plants currently listed as threatened may represent only a small fraction of the number of species truly under attack since the group estimates that only 4 percent of all known plant species have been fully evaluated -- and many more plant species may have not yet been discovered.
The updated list comes in the wake of several high-profile announcements on endangered species. In the past year, the gray wolf, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and gray whale have all recovered sufficiently to be removed from the U.S. government's Endangered Species list. Earlier this month, researchers in West Africa confirmed that overhunting has led to the extinction of the first primate to disappear in over a century -- a 20-pound monkey species called Miss Waldron's red colobus.
The recommendation for slowing the disappearance of plants and animals includes increasing the commitment of human and financial resources between 10 and 100 times. The new "red list" was released in advance of next week's World Conservation Congress in Amman, Jordan.
The Swiss-based group describes itself as the world's largest conservation organization whose participating members include 112 national government agencies and 735 non-government groups. The list is comprised of data from governments, private groups, and research institutions in virtually all the world's countries.
Extinction risk grows around globe
Source: Copyright 2000, Associated Press
Date: September 29, 2000
Green turtle females lay upward of 100 eggs a year on Caribbean beaches in Central America - but today just one of those eggs will grow into an adult turtle.
Poachers from Mexico to Panama slaughter baby turtles to make tasty filets from their spongy, grayish-green flesh. Others, too impatient to wait for them to be born, sell their plundered eggs for exotic omelets.
The species is just one of the 11,046 plants and animals that risk disappearing forever, according to the most comprehensive analysis of global conservation ever undertaken, the World Conservation Union's 2000 Red List of Threatened Species. The report, released Thursday, examined some 18,000 species and subspecies around the globe. Earth has estimated 14 million species - and only 1.75 million have been documented.
Conservationists estimate that the current extinction rate is1,000 to 10,000 times higher than it should be under natural conditions. That means that in the first decades of the 21st century, many creatures - from a majestic Albatross to Asian freshwater turtles - may join the ranks of the flightless Dodo bird.
The primary reason: humans. Everything from expanding cities to deforestation, agriculture and fishing pose a significant threat to the planet's biodiversity. In the last 500 years, some 816 species have disappeared - some permanently, while others exist only in artificial settings, such as zoos.
"Animals are a finite resource much like oil in a lot of ways," said Enrique Lahmann, regional director of the World Conservation Union. "But because the public does not need these species to drive every morning, it is easy to forget about them."
Of the 11,046 plants and animals at risk of extinction, 1,184 are in Central America and Mexico, where poverty and logging are teaming up to shrink habitats and decimate species, according to the study.
"What this latest list shows is that many of the animals most have come to associate with the jungle are in danger," said Marino Gemenez, adjunct head of the group's Species Survival Commission, a network of 7,000 international species experts who researched the report.
Even Guatemala's national bird - a small green creature with a red chest and long tail-feathers known as the quetzal - is at high risk, along with other lesser known regional creatures including the Pacific pilot whale and the Mexican long-nosed bat.
The report reveals that Indonesia, India and China are among the countries with the most threatened mammals and birds. But Central America and Mexico as a region have a higher percentage of problems and rank among the world's poorest defenders of native plants and animals, Lahmann said by telephone from his office in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The contrast of richly diverse terrain, coupled with poverty and often deficient environmental controls, has left this part of the world facing the potentially crippling loss of hundreds of plants and animals that are thriving elsewhere, Lahmann said.
Further, problems are getting worse - plants and animals in Mexico and Central America are being threatened at a rate 10 times that they faced a decade ago, Lahmann said.
Besides poaching, the most serious threat is the clearing of forest areas for crops and cattle, and logging by lumber companies or rural families in search of firewood.
Adding to the problem are forest fires that rage out of control while cash-strapped governments look on helplessly.
As in Africa and Asia, another major factor is the sale of exotic animals as pets. The illegal smuggling of animals to dealers has become the third-most profitable smuggling racket behind drugs and guns, said Gustavo Aldofo Martinez, field researcher for Guatemala's Jungle Life Rescue Association.
Martinez said a captured spider monkey or Belizean Crocodile can fetch up to $5,000 overseas. Poachers work so fast that natural predators which once snacked on green turtle hatchlings and eggs are now going hungry.
"They lay a lot of eggs because nature has always been a verytough place for eggs and for little turtles," Lahmann said. "But nature wasn't prepared for man."
Red List of Threatened Species Reveals Global Extinction Crisis
Source: c Environment News Service (ENS) 2000
Date: September 28, 2000
GENEVA, Switzerland, September 28, 2000 (ENS) - Earth's most critically endangered animals and plants have disappeared very rapidly since 1996, the world's largest international conservation organisation reported today.
One in four mammal species and one in eight species of birds are facing a high risk of extinction in the near future, in almost all cases as a result of human activities. The total number of threatened animal species has increased from 5,205 to 5,435.
The 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is released once every four years by IUCN - The World Conservation Union. The Red List is considered the most authoritative and comprehensive status assessment of global biodiversity.
Founded in 1948, the IUCN brings together 77 states, 112 government agencies, 735 non-governmental organizations, 35 affiliates, and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a worldwide partnership.
Drawing on all these sources of information, the Red List report uses scientific criteria to classify species into one of eight categories:
Extinct, Extinct in the Wild, Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable, Lower Risk, Data Deficient and Not Evaluated.A species is classed as threatened if it falls in the Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable categories.
"The fact that the number of critically endangered species has increased - mammals from 169 to 180; birds from 168 to 182 - was a jolting surprise, even to those already familiar with today's increasing threats to biodiversity. These findings should be taken very seriously by the global community," says Maritta von Bieberstein Koch-Weser, IUCN's director general.
The magnitude of risk, shown by movements to the higher risk categories, has increased, although the overall percentage of threatened mammals and birds has not greatly changed in four years, the IUCN found.
PRIMATES' STATUS PRECARIOUS
Primates such as apes and monkeys showed the greatest increase in the number of threatened mammals, from 96 to 116 species. Many changes were found to be caused by increased habitat loss and hunting, particularly the bushmeat trade.
The number of Critically Endangered primates increased from 13 to 19.Endangered primates number 46 today, up from 29 four years ago. Russell Mittermeier, president of Conservation International and chair of IUCN's Primate Specialist Group says, "The Red List is solid documentation of the global extinction crisis, and it reveals just the tip of the iceberg." "Many wonderful creatures will be lost in the first few decades of the 21st century unless we greatly increase levels of support, involvement and commitment to conservation, he warns.
"Human and financial resources must be mobilised at between 10 and 100 times the current level to address this crisis, the Red List analysis urges.
Indonesia, India, Brazil and China are among the countries with the most threatened mammals and birds, while plant species are declining rapidly in South and Central America, Central and West Africa, and Southeast Asia.
Habitat loss and habitat degradation affect 89 percent of all threatened birds, 83 percent of mammals, and 91 percent of threatened plants assessed.Habitats with the highest number of threatened mammals and birds are lowland and mountain tropical rainforest.
As in 1996, Indonesia has the highest number of threatened mammals, 135 species. India with 80 threatened mammal species and Brazil with 75 threatened species have moved ahead of China where 72 species are threatened.
FRAGILE FRESH WATER SPECIES
Freshwater habitats are "extremely vulnerable" with many threatened fish, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species. Freshwater turtles, heavily exploited for food and medicinal use in Asia, went from 10 to 24 Critically Endangered species in the past four years. "Hunting of these species is unregulated and unmanaged, and the harvest levels are far too high for the species to sustain," the IUCN warns. As populations disappear in Southeast Asia, there are signs that this trade is increasingly shifting to India and further afield to the Americas and Africa.
Other Asian species, such as snakes and salamanders, are also heavily exploited for use in traditional Chinese medicine, but the effects of this and other pressures on most of these species have not yet been assessed.
A number of amphibian species have shown rapid and unexplained disappearances, for example in Australia, Costa Rica, Panama and Puerto Rico, the IUCN reports.
The report points to "extremely serious deterioration" in the status of river dwelling species largely due to water development projects and other habitat changes. One of the major threats to lake dwelling species is introduced species. A systematic analysis of the status of these species will be undertaken in the next three years.
BIRDS AT RISK
BirdLife International produced the global status analysis that forms a major component of the Red List. The most significant changes have been in the albatrosses and petrels, with an increase from 32 to 55 threatened species.
Sixteen albatross species are now threatened compared to only three in 1996, as a result of longline fishing. Of the remaining five albatross species, four are now near-threatened. Threatened penguin species have doubled from five to 10. These increases reflect the growing threats to the marine environment," the IUCN reports. BirdLife International has started an international campaign "Save the albatross: keeping the world's seabirds off the hook" to reduce the accidental bycatch of seabirds through longline fisheries adopting appropriate mitigation measures.
The Philippines, another biodiversity hotspot, has lost 97 percent of its original vegetation and has more Critically Endangered birds than any other country.
The IUCN Red List includes 5,611 species of threatened plants, many of which are trees. The total number of globally threatened plant species is still small in relation to the total number of plant species, but this is because most plant species have still not been assessed for their level of threat, IUCN says.
The only major plant group to have been comprehensively assessed is the conifers, of which 140 species, 16 percent of the total, are threatened. Assessments undertaken by The Nature Conservancy, not yet incorporated in the Red List, indicate that one-third of the plant species in North America are threatened.
In the last 500 years, human activity has forced 816 species to extinction or extinction in the wild. One hundred and three extinctions have occurred since 1800, indicating an extinction rate 50 times greater than the natural rate. Many species are lost before they are discovered.
The 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals included 169 Critically Endangered and 315 Endangered mammals. The 2000 analysis now lists 180 Critically Endangered and 340 Endangered mammals.
For birds, there is an increase from 168 to 182 Critically Endangered and from 235 to 321 Endangered species.A total of 18,276 species and subspecies are included in the 2000 Red List. Approximately 25 percent of reptiles, 20 percent of amphibians and 30 percent of fishes, mainly freshwater, so far assessed are listed as threatened.
Since only a small proportion of these groups has been assessed, the percentage of threatened species could be much higher, the IUCN says. As well as classifying species according to their extinction risk, the Red List provides information on species range, population trends, main habitats, major threats and conservation measures, both already in place, and those needed. It allows insight into the processes driving extinction.
The release of the 2000 Red List comes a week before the second World Conservation Congress in Amman, Jordan, where members of IUCN will meet to define global conservation policy for the next four years, including ways of addressing the growing extinction crisis.
The 2000 IUCN Red List has been produced for the first time on CD-ROM and is searchable on its own website athttp://www.redlist.org. The analysis is published as a booklet.
Growing threat to rare species
Source: Copyright 2000, BBC News Online
Date: September 28, 2000
By: environment correspondent Alex Kirby
A quarter of the world's mammal species face a high risk ofextinction very soon, a conservation group says. The warning, from IUCN - The World Conservation Union, says an eighth of the world's bird species are at similar risk.
IUCN believes the world should be spending at least 10 times more than it does to halt the slide to extinction.Over the last two centuries, it says, extinctions have been occurring 50 times faster than the natural rate.
The assessment comes in the 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, probably the most comprehensive and authoritative inventory of species' global conservation status.
Worse than feared
IUCN is a partnership of states, non-governmental groups and scientific bodies, drawing on the expertise of about 10,000 individual scientists. It be even worse than scientists realise, with "dramatic" declines in many species, including reptiles and primates.
Since the last assessment in 1996, critically endangered primate species have increased from 13 to 19, and freshwater turtles from 10 to 24. Threatened albatross species have risen from three to 16, because of long-line fisheries. The total number of critically endangered mammal species is now 180, 11 more than in 1996, while bird species have risen from 168 to 182.
Those listed as threatened to some degree number 11,046 plant and animal species, in almost all cases because of human activities. IUCN says this means that 24% of mammals and 12% of birds "face a high risk of extinction in the near future". The list includes 18,276 species and subspecies. About 25% of reptiles, 20% of amphibians and 30% of fish so far assessed are listed as threatened.
Threatened plants number 5,611, but as only about 4% of the world's described plants have been evaluated the true figure is much higher. IUCN's director general, Dr Maritta Koch-Weser, said the rise in the number of species at acute risk was "a jolting surprise. These findings should be taken very seriously by the global community".
Poised to disappear
The chair of IUCN's primate specialist group is Dr Russell AMittermeier, president of Conservation International. He said: "The Red List is solid documentation of the global extinction crisis, and it reveals just the tip of the iceberg.
"Many wonderful creatures will be lost in the first few decades of this century unless we greatly increase levels of support, involvement and commitment to conservation."
IUCN says human and financial resources need to be from 10 to 100 times greater than they are to tackle the crisis. It says the rise in the number of threatened primate species, from 96 to 116, owes much to increased habitat loss and to hunting, especially the bushmeat trade.
Gene pools depleted
The rapid decline in tortoises and freshwater turtles in southeast Asia is being caused by "heavy exploitation for food and medicinal use". Dr Craig Hilton-Taylor, a conservation biologist, is responsible for IUCN's Red List programme. He told BBC News Online: "One of the priorities is to set far more land aside, to reverse the present deforestation and persuade the logging companies to go for sustainable use.
"But you've also got to take people's needs for food and land into account. If you can get them to appreciate their resources, then green tourism can be a serious part of the answer.
"A lot of species are on the brink, but hanging in there, producing perhaps one offspring every couple of decades - animals like the Sumatran rhinoceros.
"It may take them a long time to vanish completely. But their gene pools will have been disastrously depleted long before then."