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 2006 Red List of Threatened Species  
 Portraits in Red: taking a closer look at the species under threat
Portraits in Red
Taking a closer look at the species under threat

99% of threatened species are at risk from human activities. The principle threats are habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, unsustainable use, pollution and disease and now climate change is increasingly recognized as a growing threat. Click on the photos below to read short case studies on the species that face these threats or click here for more stories.

Habitat loss
and degradation
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Unsustainable use by over-harvesting/hunting
learn more
Common hippo
Giant yellow croaker

Invasive species
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Climate change and pollution
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Habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation are the greatest threats to terrestrial wildlife. These threats affect 86% of threatened birds and mammals and 88% of threatened amphibians.

Habitat destruction: a downward spiral for Pygmy Hippos


Pygmy hippopotamus, (Hexaprotodon liberiensis) (Endangered) Washington DC National Zoo. Photo © Susan Stone

As West African forests are cleared, Pygmy hippos (Hexaprotodon liberiensis) lose their habitat and hunting pressure for bushmeat increases with the easier access. Pygmy Hippos are shy forest animals that live only in a 5,000 km² area of West Africa and reports from the field suggest that the quality and extent of this habitat continues to erode rapidly. At last count in 1994, fewer than 3,000 individuals remained, but given the declining quality and fragmentation of their habitat and subsequent hunting pressure their numbers today are surely lower. The Pygmy Hippo is now listed as Endangered. Read more. IUCN SSC Pig, Peccary and Hippo Specialist Group

Disappearing dragonflies – Sri Lanka’s remarkable jewels clearly in trouble


Dragonfly (Tetrathemis yerburyii) Sri Lanka, Critically Endangered. Photo © Matjaz Bedjanič

Of the 116 dragonfly (Odonate) species found in Sri Lanka, 53 are found nowhere else (endemics) and no less than 20 endemics (40%) are threatened with extinction. The island’s remarkable dragonfly fauna is clearly in trouble.

The rapid destruction and fragmentation of Sri Lanka’s rainforests, and the removal of forest corridors along rivers and streams has brought many dragonfly species near or to the brink of extinction. 15 jungle-dwelling species of the genus Drepanosticta are confined to tiny pockets of their original habitat and five of them have not been seen for over 60 years. They are classified as Critically Endangered.

Effective conservation measures in declared protected areas and the establishment of a network of new small protected areas and corridors are needed to guarantee the dragonflies future. Odonata Specialist Group

Giant Sengis – flagships for African forest biodiversity conservation
Golden-rumped sengi (Rhynchoyon chrysopygus): Endangered. Photo © Galen Rathbun

The Giant Sengis or elephant-shrews genus Rhynchocyon) are the size of a small cat, but look like a colourful and bizarre cross between a miniature antelope and anteater. The Endangered golden-rumped sengi (R. chrysopygus) is restricted to the fragmented coastal forests north of Mombasa, Kenya. It is a habitat specialist, living in forests with a thick layer of leaf litter that supports a plentiful supply of invertebrate prey. Its forests are rapidly being destroyed and fragmented as the need for agricultural and urban land increases with the expanding human population.

International conservation organizations, as well as government agencies, are working to protect and conserve dwindling forest habitats, and the citizen-based Friends of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has adopted the golden-rumped Sengi as their flagship mascot for forest conservation. IUCN SSC Afrotheria Specialist Group

Mining threatens the live-bearing Mount Nimba toad
Mount Nimba toad (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis) Critically Endangered. Photo © Piotr Naskrecki

The Critically Endangered Mount Nimba toad, (Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis), belongs to the only genus of toads that give birth to live young after an extended gestation period. Known only from the montane graslands of the Mount Nimba region of Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia, habitat loss and degradation due to the mining of iron ore/bauxite poses a significant threat to this species. This threat will increase as new mining sites have recently been selected on the Guinean side. Although part of Mount Nimba is protected, the site is in urgent need of stricter protection and improved management, to safeguard the toad and several other highly threatened species known only from this area. IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group

Additional stories on species affected by habitat loss and degradation.


Over-exploitation is a major threat to mammals (33% of threatened species), birds (50% of threatened species) and amphibians (29% of threatened species), and is the most serious threat affecting marine species.

Deep trouble for deepwater sharks

Dead gulper sharks (Centrophorus granulosus) on the deck of a fishing boat. Vulnerable. Photo © Javier Guallart

Gulper sharks are a group of 16 mainly bottom-dwelling deepwater fish, and many are important in international target and commercial fisheries for their meat and large squalene rich livers, a substance used for manufacturing cosmetics and health supplements. Deepwater sharks are particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure, due to their naturally low productivity, even compared to other sharks. As fisheries extend into ever deeper water to increase or sustain catch levels, these species are at increasing risk, and many populations are in serious decline. The gulper shark Centrophorus granulosus (Vulnerable) has declined by 80-95% in its main range within the Northeast Atlantic and the Australian endemic Harrison’s dogfish (Centrophorus harrissoni) (Critically Endangered) has undergone declines of over 99% in two decades.

Further research and a precautionary approach to management are urgently needed to prevent largely unmonitored, unmanaged and ever expanding deepwater fisheries from driving bathyl (bottom-dwelling) sharks to extinction, perhaps before some species have even been seen and described. IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group

Hippos declining in over half of their 29 range-states


Common hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibius). Vulnerable. © Glen Feldhake.

Just 12 years ago the Common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) was widespread and secure, but substantial changes in parts of its range have moved it into the Vulnerable category. Hippos are primarily threatened by illegal and unregulated hunting for meat and ivory (found in the canine teeth) particularly in areas of civil unrest. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the political conditions arising from more than eight years of fighting have decimated the local hippo population: only 5% remain. To add to the list of threats, the 1989 elephant ivory ban led to a sharp increase in illegally traded hippo ivory and water diversion for agriculture and development around wetland areas is impinging on habitat. As pressure on freshwater resources in Africa grows, hippos are increasingly coming into conflict with human populations and the future of their habitat appears murky at best. IUCN SSC Pig, Peccary and Hippo Specialist Group

Pygmy sloth being picked off by local fishers


Pygmy sloth, Panama. Critically Endangered. Photo © Jeri Ledbetter/Perezoso Productions

Confined to a single tiny island off the coast of Panama, the pygmy sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) is the most endangered of all the edentates – barely a few hundred individuals are known to survive. Apart from their compact size, pygmy sloths are exceptional in their choice of habitat: they are specialized to survive in mangrove forest, a harsh and saline realm at the edge of the open sea. But this adaptation puts them in the sights of local fishermen, who hunt the sloths without regard for wildlife law. With fewer than five square kilometers of habitat for the survivors to occupy, the pygmy sloth is now listed as Critically Endangered – and its future is tenuous at best. IUCN SSC Edentate Specialist Group

Giant Yellow Croaker


Giant yellow croaker (Bahaba taipingensis), China. Endangered. © Yvonne Sadovy

In the early 20th century fishers could easily locate giant yellow croakers (Bahaba taipingensis) off the coast of China by listening for loud drumming noises made by the fish pounding muscles against their swim bladder. Their large size and highly esteemed swimbladder made this coastal-dwelling fish a popular catch, but unregulated fishing caused the population to plummet after the 1950s, at which point swim-bladder prices shot sky-high giving fishers even further incentives to continue their efforts even at very low fish densities. The species was listed as Endangered in the 2006 Red List due to over-fishing, facilitated by an unfortunate combination of the specie’s large size, noisy habits, and high commercial value. It is now under protective legislation in China. IUCN SSC Grouper and Wrasse Specialist Group


Additional stories on species affected by unsustainable use, over-harvesting and overhunting.


Invasive alien species have been the main causte of extinctions on oceanic islands, and are affecting 67% of threatened birds on islands. They are increasingly having an adverse impact on threatened continental species.

Hawaii’s Pritchardia Palms in peril


Pritchardia, Hawaii's only native palm family. Photo © M.H. Chapin

Pritchardia are the only palms native to Hawaii, with 23 known island endemic species. Formerly widespread, all are threatened with extinction.

Introduced alien species are the main reason for the palms’ decline. Rats, pigs, feral goats and deer eat the seeds and young plants which are also outcompeted by invasive weed species, preventing regeneration. Only a few regularly weeded sites protected from grazing animals with effective rat control are regenerating.

The future for Hawaii’s wild Pritchardia palms is clearly dependent upon a cooperative effort between land managers, scientists and volunteers to protect them from the depredations of introduced species to ensure their continued regeneration and survival. IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group

Seychelles reptiles holding on


Giant bronze gecko ((Ailuronyx trachygaster) Seychelles Islands. Vulnerable. Photo © Justin Gerlach
  Tiger chameleon (Calumma tigris) Seychelles Islands. Endangered. Photo © Justin Gerlach  

Forest degradation caused by introduced alien plants, such as cinnamon, is a threat to some of the Seychelles more stunning forest reptiles. The Endangered tiger chameleon (Calumma tigris) is an island endemic confined to three islands and is thought to number only 2,000 individuals.

The enigmatic giant bronze gecko (Ailuronyx trachygaster) is estimated to be limited to 3,400 animals and classified as Vulnerable. Invasive introduced plants reduce structural and species diversity in the primary forest, decreasing the abundance of the lizards’ insect prey. To counter this, alien plant control on Praslin island and habitat restoration programmes on Silhouette are being undertaken to help both species.

For more information: Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles


Giant mimosa: a thorny problem
  Mimosa (Mimosa pigra) invasion at Tram Chim National Park, Vietnam. Photo © Nguyen Huu Thien

A dense, thorny thicket is encroaching upon the biodiversity rich wetlands of Vietnam and Australia, threatening ecosystems and the livelihoods of the people who rely on them. Giant mimosa (Mimosa pigra), an invasive shrub from central and south America, grows in dense thickets replacing native vegetation in tropical wetlands.

In Australia, the shrub grows so densely that Aborigines who traditionally use the areas for food gathering can no longer pass. In Vietnam the loss of biodiversity threatens the natural resource-based livelihoods of 55 million people who live in the Lower Mekong Basin.

But humans aren’t the only ones suffering at the points of the mimosa’s thorns, several threatened species are at risk as well. The Mekong basin is home to nearly 100 globally threatened species, such as the giant ibis and sarus crane that are dependent upon these wetlands.

The Global Invasive Species Database (GISD)
is managed by the IUCN SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).

Making way for ducklings in New Zealand


Campbell Island Teal (Anas nesiotis) Critically Endangered. Photo © Garry Norman/Department of Conservation, New Zealand.

On remote, windswept Campbell Island, off the southern coast of New Zealand, several rare bird populations have made a come-back, thanks to the success of the largest island species eradication project which cleared the 11,300 hectare island of the world’s densest population of Norway rats. In 2001, the New Zealand Department of Conservation successfully coordinated the eradication of these unwelcome predators, unintentionally introduced by shipping vessels. The rats were having a devasting effect on the island’s bird population, which includes the Campbell Island teal (Anas nesiotis), the rarest duck in the world.

The Campbell Island teal (classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List) is endemic to the island, which is the cornerstone of New Zealand’s subantarctic World Heritage Site, a place internationally recognized by UNESCO as having outstanding natural ecosystem and species, including 40 seabirds, 5 of which breed nowhere else.

Now that the island is rat free, birds have been returned from a captive breeding site and the Campbell Island teal should spread to occupy their entire former range on the island. Further benefits of the rat eradication project is demonstrated by the recent return of 30 individuals of the Campbell Island snipe (Coenocorypha aucklandica. nov. sp), also endemic to the region. The snipe once lived on Campbell Island, but had recently been restricted to neighboring Jacquemart Island. SSC Invasive Species Specialist GroupSSC Threatened Waterfowl Specialist GroupBirdLife


Climate change affects 29% of threatened amphibians. Global warming is set to become one of the main threats to biodiversity if current predictions are correct. Pollution directly affects species through mortality and sub-lehtatl effects asuch as reduced fertility. It can also have stron gindirect effects by degrading habitats or reducing food supplies. Overall, pollution affects some 12% and 29% of globally threatened bird and amphibian species.

Polar bears feel the heat


Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) Vulnerable. Photo © Robert and Carolyn Buchanan

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) may disappear from most of their range within 100 years because global climate change is melting their Arctic habitat. Polar bears rely almost entirely on marine sea ice for their survival, so large-scale changes to this habitat would devastate the population. Unfortunately, declines of roughly 10–50% of annual Arctic sea ice are predicted by 2100. The annual time frames when ice is present and the quality of the ice are also expected to decline.

Polar bears are highly specialized for life in the Arctic marine environment. Due to their low reproductive rates, long generation time and the current greater speed of global warming, it seems unlikely that they will be able to adapt to the current warming trend in the Arctic.

There is little doubt that polar bears will have a reduced range area and habitat quality in the future, but the direct relation between these conditions and the abundance of polar bears is unknown. Estimates for the rate of population reduction range from 30% to 50% over 45 years.

Other threats including over-harvest due to increased quotas or no quotas in Canada and Greenland and poaching in Russia as well as toxic contaminants, shipping, and oil and gas exploration and development. Polar Bear Specialist Group

Naufraga balearica (no common name)
  Naufraga balearica, Majorca, Balearic Islands, Spain. Critically Endangered. Photo © Herbari Virtual de las Illes Balears

Climate change scenarios of a warmer, drier regime in the Mediterranean do not bode well for the survival of Naufraga balearica. Sensitive to water-shortages, it has declined continuously as a result of the repeated droughts over the last 20 years. This small plant with tiny pink flowers is especially vulnerable because it grows only at the base of a few cliffs on Majorca, one of the Balearic Islands (Spain). Adding to this, the drier conditions favour some drought-resistant neighboring plants leading to increased competition. Conservation efforts are currently focused on learning more about Naufraga balearica’s ecological requirements and collecting and re-planting seeds. IUCN SSC Mediterranean Specialist GroupTop 50 Mediterranean Island Plants

Greek tragedy: orange juice factory pollution threatens an endemic freshwater fish



Squalius keadicus, a freshwater fish endemic to Greece. Photo © Kassis Ioannis

The fish Squalius keadicus is restricted to a single location, the Evrotas river, in the Peloponnese Islands of Greece, where it is seriously threatened by pollution from an orange juicing factory. Pollution from the factory has led to a massive loss of fish in the river downstream. Water extraction by the factory and drought is causing the river to dry out in places, and turning it into a seasonal stream. Reduced flow of the river also threatens the species as it requires fast flowing water (it is rheophilic) and reduces the potential for recolonisation. Freshwater Biodiversity Assessment ProgrammeIUCN/WI Freshwater Fish Specialist Group


Inside the 2006 Red List  
2006 homepage
Portraits in Red: case studies of threatened species
Going up, going down, gone?
Fighting the extinction crisis
Photo gallery
Summary statistics
Press release  
Factsheet about Threatened Species  

A brief explanation of the Red List categories  
Background to the Red List  
Red List partners  
Global Species Assessment (2004)