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  Yahoo News 13 Sep 07
Ebola said depleting gorilla populations
By ERICA BULMAN, Associated Press Writer

PlanetArk 13 Sep 07
Conservation Union Finds 16,300 Species Threatened
Story by Deborah Zabarenko

IUCN 12 Sep 07
Extinction crisis escalates
Red List shows apes, corals, vultures, dolphins all in danger

WWF 12 Sep 07
Code red for threatened species

Gland, Switzerland – The planet is being pushed to its limits as indicated by the increasing number of threatened species across the globe, according to the latest trends in the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN’s) Red List.

The Red List of Threatened Species acts as a barometer that shows the effects habitat loss and degradation, over-exploitation, pollutants and climate change are having on our planet.

“We’re at code red,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

“It’s about time people stopped talking and realized this is not a game. The very future of our planet – and the environment we leave to our children – hangs in the balance. Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that got it so wrong?”

Species loss

According to WWF, the loss of species is a clear warning for humans.

Sound ecosystems which include clean fresh water, safe seas and healthy forests with robust species populations, are critical to the livelihoods and survival of people.

WWF applauds IUCN for drawing attention to this situation and calls on governments to take immediate, concrete, action to address some of the root causes of species extinction.

WWF believes that the IUCN’s Red List classifications should be used as a tool to assist in prioritizing focus for limited resources.

For example, the western gorilla has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered. The upgrade in status on the list should highlight the plight of these gorillas, whose population numbers prove the need for urgent attention to combat commercial hunting and further understand and prevent ebola outbreaks.

Orang-utans are also under extreme threat, primarily due to destruction of their habitat for activities such as the creation of oil palm plantations. WWF and its partners have issued new guidelines to ensure that oil palm plantations are better situated and managed more effectively to prevent conflict between the animals and humans. It is critical that oil palm companies in orang-utan range states take these on board.

Freshwater dolphins are suffering a dismal fate globally due to dam-building, entanglement in fishing nets, boat traffic and pollution. In 2005, WWF launched a River Dolphin Initiative with governments, other non-governmental organizations, industry, fishermen, and local communities to reduce or eliminate the threats to river dolphins and porpoises.

Overexploitation of species for food, medicine, pets and other human uses is a direct driver of species loss.

The impact of international trade on wildlife is tremendous, and when it is not properly regulated it causes rapid declines, as seen for some of the species highlighted by the IUCN’s Red List, particularly reptiles from North America.

New listings

Corals are also on the list for the very first time.

"The fact that corals are now present on the IUCN’s Red List should sound warning bells to the world that the oceans are in trouble", said Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF's Global Marine Programme.

Coral reefs are crucial as nursery grounds for thousands of species of fish and invertebrates, and provide revenue and livelihoods from fishing and tourism for a large proportion of the world's growing coastal population.

Corals across the world are being decimated by unsustainable and destructive fishing and by the effects of climate change.

WWF believes that unless the world acts urgently, the corals now listed will soon be accompanied by yet more species, and a loss of revenue for dependent communities.

Political will

“World leaders have made various commitments to halt biodiversity loss, but this crisis has largely fallen off political agendas," Dr Lieberman added. "Attention and funding have shifted to economic development and long-term security — without adequate attention to the link between these issues, a healthy environment, and truly sustainable development. It’s time to make the connections.”

WWF believes the IUCN Red list is an important science-based conservation tool that should be used across the globe by communities, governments and international fora to drive funding and decision making.

Reversal of the negative trend is possible when political motivation is high and when local communities see the value and benefit from conserving species.

The Red List is developed by a voluntary network of IUCN Species Specialist groups. WWF works in close cooperation with IUCN across the globe, through field interventions and by providing financial and technical support to the various Species Specialist groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission.

IUCN 12 Sep 07
Extinction crisis escalates
Red List shows apes, corals, vultures, dolphins all in danger

2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, the world’s most authoritative assessment of the Earth’s plants and animals, acts as a wake up call on the global extinction crisis

Gland, Switzerland, World Conservation Union (IUCN) – Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken, according to the 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction, up from 16,118 last year.

The total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation. One in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world’s assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy.

Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of the World Conservation Union (IUCN), said: “This year’s IUCN Red List shows that the invaluable efforts made so far to protect species are not enough. The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis. This can be done, but only with a concerted effort by all levels of society.”

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is widely recognized as the most reliable evaluation of the world’s species. It classifies them according to their extinction risk and brings into sharp focus the ongoing decline of the world’s biodiversity and the impact that mankind is having upon life on Earth.

Jane Smart, Head of IUCN’s Species Programme, said: “We need to know the precise status of species in order to take the appropriate action. The IUCN Red List does this by measuring the overall status of biodiversity, the rate at which it is being lost and the causes of decline.

“Our lives are inextricably linked with biodiversity and ultimately its protection is essential for our very survival. As the world begins to respond to the current crisis of biodiversity loss, the information from the IUCN Red List is needed to design and implement effective conservation strategies – for the benefit of people and nature.”

Some highlights from this year’s IUCN Red List

The decline of the great apes

A reassessment of our closest relatives, the great apes, has revealed a grim picture. The Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered, after the discovery that the main subspecies, the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), has been decimated by the commercial bushmeat trade and the Ebola virus. Their population has declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years, with about one third of the total population found in protected areas killed by the Ebola virus over the last 15 years.

The Sumatran Orangutan (Pongo abelii) remains in the Critically Endangered category and the Bornean Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) in the Endangered category. Both are threatened by habitat loss due to illegal and legal logging and forest clearance for palm oil plantations.

In Borneo, the area planted with oil palms increased from 2,000 km2 to 27,000 km2 between 1984 and 2003, leaving just 86,000 km2 of habitat available to the species throughout the island.

First appearance of corals on the IUCN Red List

Corals have been assessed and added to the IUCN Red List for the very first time. Ten Galápagos species have entered the list, with two in the Critically Endangered category and one in the Vulnerable category. Wellington’s Solitary Coral (Rhizopsammia wellingtoni) has been listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct).

The main threats to these species are the effects of El Niño and climate change. In addition, 74 seaweeds have been added to the IUCN Red List from the Galápagos Islands. Ten species are listed as Critically Endangered, with six of those highlighted as Possibly Extinct.

The cold water species are threatened by climate change and the rise in sea temperature that characterizes El Niño. The seaweeds are also indirectly affected by overfishing, which removes predators from the food chain, resulting in an increase of sea urchins and other herbivores that overgraze these algae.

Yangtze River Dolphin listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)

After an intensive, but fruitless, search for the Yangtze River Dolphin, or Baiji, (Lipotes vexillifer) last November and December, it has been listed as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). The dolphin has not been placed in a higher category as further surveys are needed before it can be definitively classified as Extinct. A possible sighting reported in late August 2007 is currently being investigated by Chinese scientists. The main threats to the species include fishing, river traffic, pollution and degradation of habitat.

India and Nepal’s crocodile, the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) is also facing threats from habitat degradation and has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered. Its population has recently declined by 58%, from 436 breeding adults in 1997 to just 182 in 2006. Dams, irrigation projects, sand mining and artificial embankments have all encroached on its habitat, reducing its domain to 2% of its former range.

Vulture crisis

This year the total number of birds on the IUCN Red List is 9,956 with 1,217 listed as threatened. Vultures in Africa and Asia have declined, with five species reclassified on the IUCN Red List.

In Asia, the Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps calvus) moved from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered while the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) moved from Least Concern to Endangered. The rapid decline in the birds over the last eight years has been driven by the drug diclofenac, used to treat livestock.

In Africa, three species of vulture have been reclassified, including the White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis), which moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable, the White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) and Rüppell’s Griffon (Gyps rueppellii), both moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened. The birds’ decline has been due to a lack of food, with a reduction in wild grazing mammals, habitat loss and collision with power lines. They have also been poisoned by carcasses deliberately laced with insecticide. The bait is intended to kill livestock predators, such as hyenas, jackals and big cats, but it also kills vultures.

North American reptiles added to IUCN Red List

After a major assessment of Mexican and North American reptiles, 723 were added to the IUCN Red List, taking the total to 738 reptiles listed for this region. Of these, 90 are threatened with extinction. Two Mexican freshwater turtles, the Cuatro Cienegas Slider (Trachemys taylori) and the Ornate Slider (Trachemys ornata), are listed as Endangered and Vulnerable respectively. Both face threats from habitat loss.

Mexico’s Santa Catalina Island Rattlesnake (Crotalus catalinensis) has also been added to the list as Critically Endangered, after being persecuted by illegal collectors.

Plants in peril

There are now 12,043 plants on the IUCN Red List, with 8,447 listed as threatened.

The Woolly-stalked Begonia (Begonia eiromischa) is the only species to have been declared extinct this year. This Malaysian herb is only known from collections made in 1886 and 1898 on Penang Island. Extensive searches of nearby forests have failed to reveal any specimens in the last 100 years.

The Wild Apricot (Armeniaca vulgaris), from central Asia, has been assessed and added to the IUCN Red List for the first time, classified as Endangered. The species is a direct ancestor of plants that are widely cultivated in many countries around the world, but its population is dwindling as it loses habitat to tourist developments and is exploited for wood, food and genetic material.

Banggai Cardinalfish heavily exploited by aquarium trade

Overfishing continues to put pressure on many fish species, as does demand from the aquarium trade. The Banggai Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni), which is highly prized in the aquarium industry, is entering the IUCN Red List for the first time in the Endangered category. The fish, which is only found in the Banggai Archipelago, near Sulawesi, Indonesia, has been heavily exploited, with approximately 900,000 extracted every year.

Conservationists are calling for the fish to be reared in captivity for the aquarium trade, so the wild populations can be left to recover.

These highlights from the 2007 IUCN Red List are merely a few examples of the rapid rate of biodiversity loss around the world.

The disappearance of species has a direct impact on people’s lives. Declining numbers of freshwater fish, for example, deprive rural poor communities not only of their major source of food, but of their livelihoods as well.

Species loss is our loss

Conservation action is slowing down biodiversity loss in some cases, but there are still many species that need more attention from conservationists.

This year, only one species has moved to a lower category of threat. The Mauritius Echo Parakeet (Psittacula eques), which was one of the world’s rarest parrots 15 years ago, has moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered. The improvement is a result of successful conservation action, including close monitoring of nesting sites and supplementary feeding combined with a captive breeding and release programme.

Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Head of IUCN’s Species Programme, said: "From previous experience, we know that conservation can work, but unfortunately this year we are documenting an improvement for only one species. This is really worrying in light of government commitments around the world, such as the 2010 target to slow down the rate of biodiversity loss. Clearly, this shows that much more needs to be done to support the work of thousands of enthusiastic people working everyday throughout the world to preserve the diversity of life on this planet."

Holly Dublin, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission, said: “Conservation networks dedicated to fighting the extinction crisis, such as the Species Survival Commission, are working effectively. But much more help and support is needed as environmentalists cannot do it alone. The challenge of the extinction crisis also requires attention and action from the general public, the private sector, governments and policy makers to ensure that global biodiversity remains intact for generations to come.”

Yahoo News 13 Sep 07
Ebola said depleting gorilla populations
By ERICA BULMAN, Associated Press Writer

The most common type of gorilla is now "critically endangered," one step away from global extinction, according to the 2007 Red List of Threatened Species released Wednesday by the World Conservation Union.

The Ebola virus is depleting Western Gorilla populations to a point where it might become impossible for them to recover. Commercial hunting, civil unrest and habitat loss due to logging and forest clearance for palm oil plantations are compounding the problem, said the Swiss-based group known by its acronym IUCN.

"Great apes are our closest living relatives and very special creatures," Russ Mittermeier, head of IUCN's Primate Specialist Group, told The Associated Press. "We could fit all the remaining great apes in the world into two or three large football stadiums. There just aren't very many left."

In all, 16,306 species are threatened with extinction, 188 more than last year, IUCN said.

One in four mammals are in jeopardy, as are one in eight birds, a third of all amphibians and 70 percent of the plants that have been studied.

"Life on Earth is disappearing fast and will continue to do so unless urgent action is taken," the IUCN warned.

The Western Gorilla's main subspecies — the Western Lowland Gorilla — has been decimated by the Ebola virus, which has wiped out about a third of the gorillas found in protected areas over the last 15 years.

"In the last 10 years, Ebola is the single largest killer of apes. Poaching is a close second," said Peter Walsh, a member if IUCN's Primate Specialist Group, told the AP.

"Ebola is knocking down populations to a level where they won't bounce back. The rate of decline is dizzying. If it continues, we'll lose them in 10-12 years."

Female gorillas only start reproducing at the age of 9 or 10 and only have one baby about every five years. Walsh said even in ideal conditions, it would take the gorillas decades to bounce back.

The World Conservation Union also said the Yangtze River dolphin is now "possibly extinct." There have been no documented sightings of the long-snouted cetacean since 2002. An intensive search of its habitat in November and December proved fruitless but more searches are needed as one was possibly spotted in late August.

The Redheaded Vulture soared from "near threatened" to "critically endangered." The birds' rapid decline over the last eight years is largely due to diclofenac, a painkiller given to ill or injured farm cattle so they can still work. But the substance poisons the vultures when they scavenge livestock carcasses.

Only 182 breeding adults of the Gharial crocodile remain, down almost 60 percent from a decade ago. India and Nepal's crocodile has become critically endangered because dams, irrigation projects and artificial embankments have reduced its habitat to just 2 percent of its former range.

The woolly-stalked begonia is the only species declared extinct this year. Extensive searches have failed to uncover any specimens of the Malaysian herb in the last century, IUCN said.

Only one species moved to a lesser category of threat. One of the world's rarest parrots 15 years ago, the Mauritius Echo parakeet, eased back from critically endangered to only endangered. That was a result of close monitoring of its nesting sites, and supplementary feeding combined with a captive breeding and release program.

IUCN says 785 species have disappeared over the last 500 years. A further 65 are found only in artificial settings such as zoos.

The Red List, produced by a worldwide network of thousands of experts, includes some 41 ,000 species and subspecies around the globe.

PlanetArk 13 Sep 07
Conservation Union Finds 16,300 Species Threatened
Story by Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON - From the lowland gorillas of Africa to corals of the Galapagos Islands, more than 16,300 species are threatened with extinction, the World Conservation Union said on Wednesday in its annual Red List.

In what is billed as the world's most authoritative assessment of Earth's plants and animals, the global group considered 41,415 species and found that of those, 16,306 were under threat, said Craig Hilton-Tailor, the list's manager.

That is nearly 200 more species of wildlife than last year, Hilton-Tailor said in a telephone interview, adding that this estimate is "just the tip of the iceberg."

"It's a very bad news story," Jane Smart, head of the conservation group's species program, said at a briefing. "Our lives are inextricably linked with biodiversity and ultimately its protection is essential for our very survival."

Extinction rates are now about 100 to 1,000 times higher than normal, and climate change is already affecting biodiversity, endangered species experts at the briefing said.

The World Conservation Union -- a global group whose members includes nations, government agencies, nongovernmental organizations and thousands of scientists -- aims to "influence, encourage and assist societies" to conserve nature and natural resources.

While it does not play a major role in US decisions on wildlife conservation because the United States does this through its own Endangered Species Act, the conservation union is highly influential in other regions, particularly in developing countries which cannot afford to make their own assessments of which species are in trouble.


Three of the new species added to this year's list are corals in the Galapagos, which are critically endangered by the warm-water Pacific Ocean pattern El Nino and by climate change, the group said in a statement.

Hilton-Tailor said global warming is a factor in these and other species' endangerment, but not the only factor.

The Red List is aimed at policy makers and ordinary people, Hilton-Tailor said. "If everybody on the planet cooperated and adopted a sustainable way of living, a lot of these problems would go away," he said.

He acknowledged that such cooperation has not occurred in the course of human history. Asked to name a particularly troubling example, Hilton-Tailor mentioned the western lowland gorilla, which moves from endangered to critically endangered on the latest list.

Its decline is due to the Ebola virus and commercial hunting of so-called bush meat. This case points up the need for better viral controls, and for an alternative source of food for people in the gorilla's range, from Angola to Congo to Gabon.

Development is the culprit in the decline of the Yangtze River dolphin, also known as the baiji, Hilton-Tailor said. It is critically endangered and possibly extinct, with perhaps one or two individual creatures remaining. Changes in river flows due to dams, pollution, over-fishing and the use of electric shocks to fish in the Yangtze system are all factors in the cetacean's disappearance. Heavy river traffic in fast-developing China is another cause.

"Any poor dolphin would really have to do amazing acrobatics to avoid being hit by one of those ships," Hilton-Tailor said.

On the plus side, reptiles in North America are holding their own, with only 12 percent of snakes and lizards listed as threatened.

The 2007 Red List on the IUCN website
Related articles on Global issues: biodiversity
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