Confirming the Global Extinction
A call for
international action as the most authoritative global assessment of
species loss is released
Washington, Geneva, Ottawa
Thursday, 28 September 2000
(Embargoed 17.00h GMT)
The global extinction
crisis is as bad or worse than believed, with dramatic declines in populations
of many species, including reptiles and primates, according to the 2000
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released today.
Since the last
assessment in 1996, Critically Endangered primates increased from 13
to 19, and the number of threatened albatross species has increased
from three to 16 due to long-line fisheries. Freshwater turtles, heavily
exploited for food and medicinal use in Asia, went from 10 to 24 Critically
Endangered species in just four years.
These are among
the alarming facts announced by the world's largest international conservation
organisation, with the publication of the Red List, the most authoritative
and comprehensive status assessment of global biodiversity.
The release comes
a week before the second World Conservation Congress in Amman, Jordan,
where members of IUCN - The World Conservation Union will meet to define
global conservation policy for the next four years, including ways of
addressing the growing extinction crisis.
"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 Red List is
solid documentation of the global extinction crisis, and it reveals
just the tip of the iceberg," says Russell A. Mittermeier, President
of Conservation International and Chair of IUCN's Primate Specialist
Group. "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.
" Human and financial
resources must be mobilised at between 10 and 100 times the current
level to address this crisis, the Red List analysis report says. IUCN
should join forces with a wide range of partners, continue to develop
strong relationships with governments and local communities, and engage
the private sector at a new level, it adds.
A total of 11,046
species of plants and animals are threatened, facing a high risk of
extinction in the near future, in almost all cases as a result of human
activities. This includes 24 percent (one in four) of mammal species
and 12 percent (one in eight) of bird species. The total number of threatened
animal species has increased from 5,205 to 5,435.
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
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. Freshwater habitats are extremely vulnerable with
many threatened fish, reptile, amphibian and invertebrate species.
For the IUCN Red
List system, scientific criteria are used 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.
While the overall
percentage of threatened mammals and birds has not greatly changed in
four years, the magnitude of risk, shown by movements to the higher
risk categories, has increased. 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.
In the last 500
years, human activity has forced 816 species to extinction (or extinction
in the wild). The increase in known bird extinctions is partly due to
improved documentation and new knowledge, but 103 extinctions have occurred
since 1800, indicating an extinction rate 50 times greater than the
natural rate. Many species are lost before they are even discovered.
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.
As well as the
animal species listed as threatened, 1,885 are classified as lower risk/near
threatened - a category that has no specific criteria, and is used for
species that come close to qualifying as Vulnerable. The majority of
'near threatened' animal species are mammals (602 - mainly bats and
rodents) and birds (727).
A total of 5,611
threatened plants are listed, but as only approximately 4 percent of
the world's described plants have been evaluated, the true percentage
of threatened plant species is much higher. With 16 percent of conifers
(the most comprehensively assessed plant group), known to be threatened,
the scale of threat for plants may be similar to that for some of the
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
better insight than ever before into the processes driving extinction.
The 2000 Red List
provides the basic knowledge about the status of biodiversity that can
be used by conservation planners and decision-makers around the world
to establish priorities and take the necessary action.
The 2000 IUCN Red
List has been produced for the first time on CD-ROM and is searchable
on its own website at www.redlist.org.
is published as a booklet.
Closer Look at the Trends>>
For more information:
IUCN Species Survival Commission
Tel: +41 22 9990001
Mobile: +41 (0)79 477 2122 or +41 (0)79 477 2121
Fax +41 22 9990015
IUCN Red List Programme
IUCN - The World Conservation Union was founded in 1948 and brings together
77 states, 112 government agencies, 735 NGOs, 35 affiliates, and some
10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique world-wide
partnership. Its mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies
throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature
and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically
sustainable. Within the framework of global conventions IUCN has helped
over 75 countries to prepare and implement national conservation and
biodiversity strategies. IUCN has approximately 1000 staff, most of
whom are located in its 42 regional and country offices while 100 work
at its Headquarters in Gland, Switzerland.