Red Alert

03 May 2006

In the second edition of its ‘Red List’ of endangered species, published Tuesday, the World Conservation Union, or IUCN, says over 16,000 species of animals and plants (one in four mammals and one in eight birds) are on the verge of extinction. 530 species have been added since the first edition, published two years ago.

The IUCN states that China, Brazil, Australia and Mexico in particular are home to numerous threatened species, and that many other countries round the world have to reduce emissions, tighten fishing and hunting controls and implement other measures to preserve biodiversity.

The new document claims that over 50% of the 25 freshwater fish species endemic to the Mediterranean countries and one in four endemic to East Africa’s are at risk of disappearing. The number of lake trout in Lake Malawi has dropped by half over the last decade (in Malawi, freshwater fish account for 70% of the animal protein consumed by humans).

Life at sea is no less vulnerable with 20% of the 547 sharks and rays species covered by the report at risk of extinction. Species that live on the sea floor are also seriously endangered as fishing fleets probe deeper and deeper. ‘Populations are destined to decline in the absence of international catch limits,’ says the report said, though stricter regulations on non-fishing areas and mesh size and might serve to restore stocks.

‘Conservation measures are making a difference,’ concluded World Conservation Union Director General Achim Steiner. ‘We should not be passive bystanders in the unfolding tragedy of biodiversity loss and species extinction.’

Members of the IUCN include 81 governments, more than 850 non-governmental groups and about 10,000 scientists all round the world.

IUCN – The World Conservation Union

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