Seven primate species, two families of rays and thousands more animals, plants and fungi have moved closer to extinction, according to a global analysis.
The latest International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list shows that worldwide some 28,338 species are threatened with extinction due to a combination of habitat loss, unsustainable fishing and hunting. That is a 6 per cent increase from 2018, when 26,840 species were threatened.
The IUCN classified 6127 species as critically endangered, meaning they are one step away from global extinction. This is up from 5826 species last year. However, the IUCN says this may be due to greater efforts at assessing species, rather than a true increase in the number of endangered animals.
All but one of the 16 species of wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes, collectively known as rhino rays because of their elongated snouts, are now critically endangered due to “increasingly intense and essentially unregulated coastal fishing”, the IUCN says. Rhino ray meat is sold locally, while the fins are highly valued and traded internationally for shark fin soup.
Some 40 per cent of primate species in West and central Africa are now threatened with extinction, and the conservation status of seven primate species have become more precarious in the past year, the IUCN warns. Six of these species live in West Africa, which “shows clearly how hunting for bushmeat and development-related deforestation are causing primate populations to decline”, it says.
The roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway) is now critically endangered, with fewer than 2000 thought to remain in Ivory Coast and Ghana, where they are endemic. Their size and the value of their meat and skin make the monkeys a target for hunters.
The IUCN red list is an annual report on the global conservation status of plant, animal and fungi species and assesses the extinction risk of a species should no conservation action be taken.
Species are assigned to one of eight categories of threat based on whether they meet criteria linked to population trend, population size and structure and geographic range. Species listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable are collectively described as “threatened”.
Jane Smart, global director of the IUCN biodiversity conservation group, says the list confirms the findings of the recent IPBES report, which concluded nature is declining at rates unprecedented in human history.
“Both national and international trade are driving the decline of species in the oceans, in freshwater and on land. Decisive action is needed at scale to halt this decline; the timing of this assessment is critical as governments are starting to negotiate a new global biodiversity framework for such action,” says Smart.
“Loss of species and climate change are the two great challenges facing humanity this century,” says Lee Hannah, senior scientist in climate change biology at Conservation International. “The results are clear, we must act now both on biodiversity loss and climate change.”
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