IUCN: 1 in 3 species could face extinction

A White-lipped Peccary. Picture: Contributed
A White-lipped Peccary. Picture: Contributed
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A CAPE Verde lizard, a fish from Arizona and a freshwater shrimp from Indonesia have been declared extinct and 21,000 species are in danger of dying out, according to a scientific ­survey.

The new Red List of Threatened Species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) prompted fresh calls to step up conservation efforts when it was published yesterday.

A Costa Rican Brook Frog. Picture: Contributed

A Costa Rican Brook Frog. Picture: Contributed

As well as the three species now extinct, the report reveals “worrying declines” in populations of a Chinese porpoise, tropical cone snails and conifers around the globe, with a total of 20,934 species now listed as threatened with extinction out of the 70,294 assessed – almost one in three.

Jane Smart, global director of the IUCN’s biodiversity conservation group, said: “We now have more information on the world’s biodiversity than ever before, but the overall picture is alarming. “We must use this knowledge to its fullest – making our conservation efforts well-targeted and efficient – if we are serious about stopping the extinction crisis that continues to threaten life on earth.”

The Santa Cruz pupfish, once found in the Santa Cruz river basin in Arizona, has been wiped out by water depletion, while the Cape Verde giant skink, a lizard that lived only on one island and two smaller islets, has been hunted to death by introduced rats and cats.

A freshwater shrimp found in Java, Indonesia, has died out due to habitat degradation and urban development.

One of the world’s few remaining freshwater cetaceans, the Yangtze finless porpoise, is considered critically endangered. Populations of the creature, which is found only in China’s Yangtze River and two adjoining lakes, were estimated to number 1,800 in 2006 but have been declining by more than 5 per cent a year since the 1980s. Illegal fishing, high boat traffic, sand mining and pollution are hampering the animal’s struggle for survival.

The first global assessment of freshwater shrimps was carried out as part of the latest research for the Red List and shows nearly a third are now facing extinction from threats including pollution, the aquarium trade and modification of habitat.

Cone snails, which are important predators in their tropical marine environments, have also been included in the study for the first time and results have revealed that many are facing extinction. The first worldwide ­assessment of conifers, the planet’s largest and oldest organisms, is included in the new list, which reveals a third of cedars, cypresses, firs and other cone-bearing plants are now at risk of extinction – an increase of 4 per cent since 1998.

California’s Monterey pine has also been upgraded to endangered.

Detail of the species

Monterey Pine

California’s Pinus radiata is generally confined to promontories and strips of rocky coast as well as two offshore islands, and it is rarely found more than six or seven miles from the sea. Threats include logging, feral goats, an introduced alien pathogen (pitch canker fungus) and competition from other trees. It is now classed as endangered. Of three subpopulations on the mainland coast of California and two to three on two islands off the coast of Mexico, only one is healthy and regenerating well.

White–lipped peccary

FOUND in the Amazon, the Tayassu pecari, is considered vulnerable due to a decrease in its population – estimated to be close to 30 per cent in the past three generations (about 18 years). Habitat loss, illegal hunting, competition with livestock and epidemics are blamed for the decline, although new evidence suggests several cases of mysterious disappearances. It is already regionally extinct in El Salvador and is assessed as having a low probability of long-term survival.

Yangtze finless porpoise

IT IS predicted that about 94 per cent of the current population of Neophocaena asiaorientalis, a subspecies of the narrow-ridged finless porpoise, will be lost in the next three generations (about ten years) and the probability of its complete extinction is extremely high. Its conservation status has been raised to critically endangered.

Cone snails

SPECIES such as Conus belairensis, Conus bruguieresi and Conus ateralbus, found in tropical seas, have been categorised as endangered as their habitat comes under increasing attack from development for tourism and through industrial and marine pollution from sewage, chemical discharges and other toxins. Their spectacular shells also mean that many cone snails are also hunted to be sold to collectors, with particularly prized varieties fetching high prices.

Costa Rica brook frog

The outlook is improving for Duellmanohyla uranochroa, which has had its critically endangered listing downgraded after recent surveys discovered several subpopulations across its historical range. But the species remains on the endangered list, with fewer than 250 mature individuals estimated to live across all the currently known sites at Monteverde, Tuis and Fila Matama in Costa Rica. Tadpoles and two adults were found in Panama in 2008-9.

Cape Verde giant skink

Last seen alive in 1912, Macroscincus coctei is now officially listed as extinct on the basis that this species has not been found in recent surveys of the only Cape Verde islands where it was known to survive.

It had been recorded on the islets Branco and Raso, in a combined area of under seven square miles. Partial remains of a juvenile skink were reportedly discovered in cat faeces on Santa Luzia in 2005, but a survey of the island in 2006 failed to turn up any of the creatures.