Sobering facts emerge from the recent revision of IUCN Red List

13 June 2014 General News
The red-ruffed lemur, one of the 101 lemur species threatened with extinction The red-ruffed lemur, one of the 101 lemur species threatened with extinction © 2008 Wildlife Extra

More than 90 per cent of lemurs are now threatened with extinction, according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The newly assessed Japanese Eel has been listed as Endangered, while the Brazilian three-banded armadillo – the mascot of this year’s WorldCup – remains Vulnerable as its population continues to decline. The IUCN Red List, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, now includes 73,686 assessed species, of which 22,103 are threatened with extinction.

Of the 101 surviving lemur species, 22 are Critically Endangered, including the largest of the living lemurs the large-bodied indri (Indri indri).

A total of 48 are Endangered, such as the world’s smallest primate, Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur (Microcebus berthae), and 20 are Vulnerable.

This makes them one of the most threatened groups of vertebrates on Earth.

Lemurs are threatened by destruction of their tropical forest habitat in Madagascar, where political uncertainty and increasing poverty levels have accelerated illegal logging. Hunting of these animals for food has also emerged as a serious issue.

The Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica) – a traditional delicacy in Japan and the country’s most expensive food fish – has been listed as Endangered due to loss of habitat, overfishing, barriers to migration, pollution and changes to oceanic currents.

The Brazilian three-banded armadillo (Tolypeutes tricinctus) is believed to have declined by more than a third over the last 10 to15 years due to a 50 per cent loss of its dry shrubland habitat called Caatinga. Its status remains Vulnerable.

And it is not only animals that are under threat.

The global assessment of temperate slipper orchids, occurring in North America, Europe and temperate Asia, reveals that 79 per cent of these popular ornamental plants are threatened with extinction.

This is mainly due to habitat destruction and over-collection of wild species for local and international horticultural trade, despite the fact that international trade in all species of slipper orchids is regulated.

Temperate slipper orchids are among the best-known and most widely illustrated of all flowering plants, with characteristic slipper-shaped flowers which trap insects to ensure pollination.

It is not all bad news, though.

The update highlights the recovery of one fish species thanks to conservation work under the auspices of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.

The Yarkon bream (Acanthobrama telavivensis), found only in Israel, has significantly improved in status, moving from Extinct in the Wild to Vulnerable.

Increasing frequency of droughts and water extraction for irrigation destroyed its only remaining habitat in the Yarkon River and Tut Stream.

The species was saved by taking 120 of the last wild fish into a captive breeding programme at Tel Aviv University.

In 2006, 9,000 laboratory-born Yarkon bream were released into restored habitat in the Yarkon and other rivers in Israel.

Eight years later, the population has increased significantly.

“Over the last 50 years, The IUCN Red List has guided conservation work – very little positive action happens without the Red List as a starting point," says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.

“This is no small achievement, but so much more needs to be done. We need to continue to expand our knowledge about the world’s species to better understand the challenges we face, set global conservation priorities and mobilise concrete action to halt the biodiversity crisis.”

“Whilst with every IUCN Red List we celebrate some conservation successes, there is a long way to go between where we are now and 2020, the deadline set by nearly 200 governments to halt biodiversity loss and prevent species extinctions,” says Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme.“We simply cannot afford to miss that deadline.” |© 2008 Wildlife Extra | June 2014

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06/2014 | Wildlife Extra

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