Andy Wong/AP

One in Four Mammals in Danger of Extinction

October 08, 2008 09:50 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A comprehensive five-year survey of almost 5,500 mammal species has found that about half are in decline, and more than 1,100 face extinction.

The Red List of Threatened Species

The scientists who put together the Red List of Threatened Species 2008, released on Monday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said that the results were “bleak and depressing” and that the situation is unlikely to improve in the future.

“Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live,” said Julia Marton-Lefevre, the director-general of the IUCN, in a news release. “We must not set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives.”

The survey of 5,487 mammal species found that 1,139 are in danger of extinction. And according to the IUCN, the situation could be even worse than outlined in the survey, as there was not enough data to determine the status of 836 mammals.

The survey shows that 188 mammals fall under the category of “Critically Endangered,” including the Iberian lynx, while 29 species have been determined to be “Critically Endangered Possibly Extinct,” including the Little Earth Hutia in Cuba.

Marine animals were among the most at-risk, with one in three at risk of disappearing. In addition, the group says that one in eight birds, one in three amphibians and 70 percent of plants are threatened. Out of 44,838 animal and plant species examined, 16,928 are under threat of extinction.

Background: Biodiversity Falling at Alarming Rate

In May, The Living Planet Index, a joint report by the Zoological Society of London, the WWF and the Global Footprint Network, released a study showing that the populations of species had fallen by 25 percent on land, 28 percent in the oceans, and 29 percent in freshwater ecosystems.

The report tracked population trends for about 1,500 species and placed blame for the decline on natural habitat destruction, overexploitation of species, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species.

Loss of biodiversity will have a direct effect on humans in the future, scientists warned. “Reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease and where water is in irregular or short supply,” said James Leape, director general of the WWF UK in a BBC news report.

According to the report, the animals that have been severely affected include African antelopes, swordfish and hammerhead sharks, and the baiji dolphin may have recently become extinct.
News reports in recent years have chronicled the decline of several species, including frogs, birds and bees.

Scientists are unsure why the world's frogs have been dying
. A nonprofit coalition of conservationists launched the “2008 Year of the Frog” campaign this year, trying to raise awareness of the crisis facing the world's frogs.

One in eight birds are in danger due to climate change, said a report earlier this year by the IUCN. Drought and extreme weather are affecting the habitats of many rare bird species, says the organization, which has now listed 1,226 birds as threatened.

Bee populations have been declining worldwide
, with a 25 percent drop in Germany and a 70 percent fall in bee stocks in the eastern U.S. “If pollinators disappear, so too will many species of plants. If we take away one link, the chain is broken,” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, the executive secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity to the International Herald Tribune.

Related Topics: New species; animal dating


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