World’s oldest and largest species in decline - IUCN Red List

7/2/2013

EN ESPAÑOL

EN FRANÇAIS

Gland, 2 July, 2013 (IUCN) – The latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ shows
worrying declines for conifers – the world’s oldest and largest organisms – freshwater shrimps, cone
snails and the Yangtze Finless Porpoise. The Santa Cruz Pupfish, a lizard known as the Cape Verde
Giant Skink and a species of freshwater shrimp have been declared Extinct.

With this update, 4,807 species have been added to The IUCN Red List bringing the total of assessed
species to 70,294, of which 20,934 are threatened with extinction.

Thanks to the IUCN Red List, we now have more information on the state of the world’s biodiversity
than ever before,” says Jane Smart, Global Director, IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group. “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 all life on Earth.”

The update includes the first global reassessment of conifers. According to the results, 34% of the
world’s cedars, cypresses, firs and other cone-bearing plants are now threatened with extinction – an
increase by 4% since the last complete assessment in 1998.

The conservation status of 33 conifer species has declined, including California’s Monterey Pine (Pinus
radiata) - the world’s most widely planted pine valued for its rapid growth and pulp qualities. The tree has
moved from Least Concern – a category used for species at relatively low extinction risk - to
Endangered, with main threats including feral goats and attacks by an invasive pathogen. Another
conifer species previously classified as Least Concern, the Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) – native to the
Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco – is now Endangered due to over-exploitation. Its reduced
population is threatened by various pests.

On the other hand, conservation action has led to improved status for the Lawson’s Cypress
(Chamaecyparis lawsoniana). Once a heavily-traded species, the tree is now listed as Near Threatened
thanks to improved management practices in California and Oregon, including planting disease resistant
stock. If conservation actions continue, this conifer may be listed as Least Concern within 10 years.

Conservation works and the results for the Lawson’s Cypress are reassuring,” says Aljos Farjon, Chair
of the IUCN SSC Conifer Specialist Group. “However, this is clearly not enough. More research into
the status and distribution of many species is urgently needed. We suspect that there are many new
species waiting to be described but it is likely that they will never be found due to the rate of
deforestation and habitat conversion for oil palm plantations.”

Conifers are the oldest and largest species on the planet. The Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) for
example, can live to an age of nearly 5,000 years and the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
grows to a height of 110 meters. Apart from wetlands, coniferous forests sequester more carbon than
any other biome – three times the amount sequestered by temperate and tropical forests. Their
economic value is immense: softwoods are used for timber and paper production and the anti-cancer
agent Taxol® is derived from the bark of many of the Yew species.

This update of The IUCN Red List provides results of the first-ever global assessment of freshwater
shrimps, of which 28% are threatened with extinction. Ten percent are used for human consumption,
including the Giant River Prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii), and they are an important part of the
freshwater food web. Pollution, modification of habitat and the aquarium trade are some of the primary
threats they face.

Cone snails, found in tropical marine environments, have also been assessed for the first time, with 8%
threatened with extinction. As predators, they are an important element in marine ecosystems and are
highly valued for their lethal toxins which are used in the development of new drugs to treat intractable
pain. These animals also have beautiful shells which have been collected for centuries, with some rare
species changing hands for thousands of dollars. Habitat loss and pollution represent the greatest
threats to these species.

"This assessment is a milestone due to an innovative cooperation between the shell-traders and
scientific experts,” says Howard Peters of University of York, member of the IUCN SSC Mollusc
Specialist Group. “Their joint work has provided new insights into the distribution, trade and threats
facing each species. This is key to our future conservation efforts.”

Also assessed is the Yangtze Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis), a
subspecies of the Narrow-ridged Finless Porpoise and one of the world’s few remaining freshwater
cetaceans. It is found in China’s Yangtze river and two adjoining lakes, Poyang and Dongting. Its
population, estimated at about 1,800 in 2006, has been declining by more than 5% annually since the
1980s and it has been assessed as Critically Endangered. Increasing threats to these porpoises include
illegal fishing, intense vessel traffic, sand mining and pollution.

The White-lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari) – a member of the pig family found in Central and South
America - has declined by 89% in Costa Rica and 84% in Mexico and Guatemala and is now listed as
Vulnerable. Hunting and habitat loss explain some of the decline but many cases of mysterious
disappearance of the species have been documented in several regions with disease suspected to be
the primary cause.

Three species have been declared Extinct. Last seen in 1912, the Cape Verde Giant Skink (Chioninia
coctei) – a lizard that was restricted to a single island and two smaller islets – was driven to extinction by
introduced rats and cats. The Santa Cruz Pupfish (Cyprinodon arcuatus) – once found in the Santa Cruz
River basin in Arizona – is now Extinct due to water depletion, and the Freshwater Shrimp
Macrobrachium leptodactylus was a victim of habitat degradation and urban development.

Once again, an update of the IUCN Red List provides us with some disturbing news,” says Simon
Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission. “However, there are instances of successes.
For example, increased survey efforts in Costa Rica have uncovered new subpopulations of Costa Rica
Brook Frog and Green-eyed Frog. Sadly, much more needs to be done as the overall trend to extinction
continues in many species.”

 

                                                                                   ###

 

Quotes from IUCN Red List partner organizations
 
The Baiji (a unique freshwater dolphin) only recently went extinct on the Yangtze River,” says Prof. Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation Programmes at ZSL. “If we now lose the Yangtze Finless Porpoise, future generations will undoubtedly wonder if we were ignorant, incompetent or both.”
 
Plants are the foundation of life on earth, providing valuable ecosystem services as well. The recent
assessment of conifers shows that many species, including those with known economic and human
benefit, are under increasing threat,” says Dr Thomas Lacher, Jr Professor, Texas A&M University.
As IUCN expands the coverage of assessments to more and more plant groups it will allow
conservation actions to focus on protecting the species and ecosystems that support the survival of all
life.”
 
Each IUCN Red List update brings a more comprehensive picture of the conservation status of the
world’s species,” says Lucas Joppa, Conservation Scientist at Microsoft Research. “Reassessments
show how the status of these species changes over time. Combining these pinpoints, what works – and
what doesn’t – in our efforts to save species. The case of Lawson’s Cypress shows how success can be
achieved, and illustrates the immense value in the Red Listing process.”
 
"This latest Red List update is further evidence of our impact on the world's threatened biodiversity," says
Richard Edwards, Chief Executive of Wildscreen, who are working with the IUCN to help raise the
public profile of the world’s threatened species, through the power of wildlife imagery. “Further evidence
that extinction is real, and that we must all act, and act now, if we are to prevent this most tragic reality
for many more of the world's species."
 
Dr. Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International and Chair of IUCN’s Species
Survival Commission’s Primate Specialist Group, said: “This latest update provides invaluable
information on several new and very important groups of species. Once again, it demonstrates that the
IUCN Red List is our most fundamental tool in stemming the extinction crisis, maintaining global
biodiversity, and achieving the very ambitious Target 12 of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity
(to prevent the extinction of threatened species by 2020) - and indeed many of the other 20 Aichi Targets
as well.”
 
"Thanks to the indefatigable efforts of colleagues in Latin America, there are hopeful signs that the populations of some frog species that were decimated by the one-two punch of climate change and
disease are stabilizing and, in some cases, showing signs of a slow recovery," says Mary Klein,
president and CEO of NatureServe. "However, the freshwater shrimp data further confirm what we
know from analyses of other animal groups: freshwater species are among the most threatened with
extinction due to the dams, channels, pollution, and introduced exotic species in those ecosystems."
 
 
For more information or interviews please contact:
Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations, t +41 22 999 0346 m +41 79 856 76 26, e ewa.magiera@iucn.org
Lynne Labanne, IUCN Species Programme Communications Officer, IUCN, t +41 22 999 0153, m +41 79 527 7221, e lynne.labanne@iucn.org
Jonathan Hulson, IUCN Species Programme Communications, IUCN, t +41 22 999 0154, e jonathan.hulson@iucn.org
 
Download images here
These images may only be used in relation to this press release
 
Notes to editors
 
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species contributes to the achievement of Target 12 of the 2011 to
2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. Target 12: By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has
been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved
and sustained.
 
A global reptile assessment is currently underway and with the reptiles added in this update we have now assessed 42% of all reptiles – a significant milestone in the project. Snakes and lizards endemic to two significant biodiversity hotspots - India's Western Ghats and East Melanesia have been assessed along with those of most island groups in Polynesia (except New Zealand). Reptiles endemic to West Africa (including the Guinean Forests biodiversity hotspot and the Cape Verde Islands) have also been assessed.
 
Global figures for the 2013.1 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:
TOTAL SPECIES ASSESSED = 70,294
(Total threatened species = 20,934)
Extinct = 799
Extinct in the Wild =61
Critically Endangered = 4,227
Endangered = 6,243
Vulnerable = 10,464
Near Threatened = 4,742
Lower Risk/conservation dependent = 241 (this is an old category that is gradually being phased out of
the Red List)
Least Concern = 31,846
Data Deficient = 11,671
 
The figures presented above are only for those species that have been assessed for The IUCN Red List to date. Although not all of the world’s species have been assessed, The IUCN Red List provides a useful snapshot of what is happening to species today and highlights the urgent need for conservation action.
 
Relative percentages for threatened species cannot be provided for many taxonomic groups on The IUCN Red List because they have not been comprehensively assessed. For many of these groups, assessment efforts have focused on threatened species; therefore, the percentage of threatened species for these groups would be heavily biased.
 
For those groups that have been comprehensively assessed, the percentage of threatened species can be calculated, but the actual number of threatened species is often uncertain because it is not known whether Data Deficient (DD) species are actually threatened or not. Therefore, the percentages presented above provide the best estimate of extinction risk for those groups that have been comprehensively assessed (excluding Extinct species), based on the assumption that Data Deficient species are equally threatened as data sufficient species. In other words, this is a mid-point figure within a range from x% threatened species (if all DD species are not threatened) to y% threatened species (if all DD species are threatened). Available evidence indicates that this is a best estimate.
 
Highlights from the 2013.1 update
 
Species moving to Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)
  •  Crustaceans
    • Florida Cave Shrimp Palaemonetes cummingi – moved from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)
  • Plants
    • Podocarpus perrieri– moved from Critically Endangered to Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)

Re-discovered species

    • Fleischmann’s Robber Frog Craugastor fleischmanni – moved from Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) to Critically Endangered
    • Starrett’s Treefrog Isthmohyla tica - moved from Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct) to Critically Endangered
Status changes
  • Amphibians
    • Bale Mountains Treefrog Balebreviceps hillmani – moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered
  • Freshwater Fish
    • Yaqui Catfish Ictalurus pricei – moved from Vulnerable to Endangered
    • Conasauga Loach Percina jenkinsi – moved from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered
    • Woundfin Plagopterus argentissimus – moved from Vulnerable to Critically Endangered
  • Plants
    • Whitebark Pine Pinus albicaulis – moved from Vulnerable to Endangered
    • Blue Mountain Yacca Podocarpus urbanii– moved from Near Threatened to Critically Endangered
    • Mulanje Cedar Widdringtonia whytei – moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered
Some examples of the over 4,800 species newly recorded on the 2013.1 IUCN Red List
  • Amphibians
    • Overlooked Squeaker Frog Arthroleptis kutogundua – enters as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)
  • Invertebrates
    • Golden Sandfish Holothuria lessoni – enters as Endangered
    • Kanthan Cave Trapdoor Spider Liphistius kanthan – enters as Critically Endangered
  • Reptiles
    • Vitilevu Mountain Treeskink Emoia campbelii – enters as Endangered
    • Ono-i-Lau Ground Skink Leiolopisma alazon – enters as Critically Endangered
    • Helmethead Gecko Tarentola chazaliae – enters as Vulnerable
  • Plants
    • Hill Turmeric Curcuma pseudomontana – enters as Vulnerable
    • Linum katiae – enters as Vulnerable
    • Masdevallia atahualpa – enters as Endangered
    • Nepenthes suratensis – enters as Critically Endangered
 
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ 
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (or The IUCN Red List) is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plant, animal and fungi species. It is based on an objective system for assessing the risk of extinction 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’.
 
The IUCN Red List is not just a register of names and associated threat categories. It is a rich compendium of information on the threats to the species, their ecological requirements, where they live, and information on conservation actions that can be used to reduce or prevent extinctions.
 
The IUCN Red List is a joint effort between IUCN and its Species Survival Commission, working with its IUCN Red List partners BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Conservation International; NatureServe; Microsoft; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Sapienza University of Rome; Texas A&M University; Wildscreen; and Zoological Society of London. www.iucnredlist.org www.facebook.com/iucn.red.list @amazingspecies 
 
The IUCN Red List threat categories
The IUCN Red List threat categories are as follows, in descending order of threat:
Extinct or Extinct in the Wild
Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;
Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;
Least Concern: species evaluated with a lower risk of extinction;
Data Deficient: no assessment because of insufficient data.
Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): this is not a new Red List category, but is a flag developed to identify those Critically Endangered species that are in all probability already Extinct but for which confirmation is required, for example, through more extensive surveys being carried out and failing to find any individuals.
 
About IUCN
IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges by supporting scientific research; managing field projects all over the world; and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN, international conventions and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice.
 
The world's oldest and largest global environmental network, IUCN is a democratic membership union with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts in some 160 countries. IUCN's work is supported by over 1,000 professional staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. IUCN's headquarters are located in Gland, near Geneva, in Switzerland. www.iucn.org
 
About the Species Survival Commission
The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of around 7,500 experts. SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation, and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity. SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation.
 
About BirdLife
BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. Together we are 121 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country – and growing with almost 11 million supporters, 7000 local conservation groups and 7400 staff. BirdLife’s vision is a world rich in biodiversity, where people and nature live in harmony. We are driven by our belief that local people, working for nature in their own places but connected nationally and internationally through our global Partnership, are the key to sustaining all life on this planet. This unique local-to-global approach delivers high impact and long-term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife is the world leader in bird conservation. Rigorous science informed by practical feedback from projects on the ground in important sites and habitats enables us to implement successful conservation programmes for birds and all nature. www.birdlife.org
 
About Botanic Gardens Conservation International
BGCI is an international organization that exists to ensure the world-wide conservation of threatened plants, the continued existence of which are intrinsically linked to global issues including poverty, human well-being and climate change. BGCI represents over 700 members - mostly botanic gardens - in 118 countries. We aim to support and empower our members and the wider conservation community so that their knowledge and expertise can be applied to reversing the threat of extinction crisis facing one third of all plants. http://www.bgci.org
 
About Conservation International (CI)
Building upon a strong foundation of science, partnership and field demonstration, CI empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, for the long term well-being of people. Founded in 1987 and marking its 25thanniversary in 2012, CI has headquarters in the Washington DC area, and 900 employees working in nearly 30 countries on four continents, plus 1,000+ partners around the world. For more information, please visit at www.conservation.org, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.
 
About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. http://www.microsoft.com
 
About NatureServe
NatureServe is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to providing the scientific basis for effective conservation action. Through its network of 82 natural heritage programs and conservation data centers in the United States, Canada, and Latin America, NatureServe provides a unique body of detailed scientific information and conservation biodiversity expertise about the plants, animals, and ecosystems of the Americas. www.natureserve.org
 
About the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class Herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world. Kew Gardens is a major international visitor attraction. Its landscaped 132 hectares and RBG Kew’s country estate, Wakehurst Place, attract nearly 2 million visitors every year. Kew was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2003 and celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. Wakehurst Place is home to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world. RBG Kew and its partners have collected and conservedseed from 10 per cent of the world's wild flowering plant species (c.30, 000 species). The aim is to conserve 25 per cent by 2020, and its enormous potential for future conservation can only be fulfilled with the support of the public and other funders. www.kew.org
 
About Sapienza University of Rome
With over 700 years of history and 145,000 students, Sapienza is the largest University in Europe, the second in the world after El Cairo: a city within the city. The University includes 11 faculties and 67 departments. In Sapienza there are over 4,500 professors, and 5,000 administrative and technical staff. Sapienza offers a wide choice of courses including 300 degree programs and 200 specialized qualifications. Students coming from other regions are over 30,000 and the foreign students are over 7,000. Sapienza plans and carries out important scientific investigations in almost all disciplines, achieving high-standard results both on a national and on an international level. Professor Luigi Frati has been the Rector of Sapienza University since November 2008. http://www.uniroma1.it/THE 
 
About Texas A&M University
From humble beginnings in 1876 as Texas' first public institution of higher learning, to a bustling 5,200-acre campus with a nationally recognized faculty, Texas A&M University is one of a select few universities with land-grant, sea-grant and spacegrant designations. With an enrolment of about half men and half women, 25 percent of the freshman class are the first in their family to attend college. Here, 39,000-plus undergraduates and more than 9,400 graduate students have access to world-class research programs and award-winning faculty. Texas A&M has two branch campuses, one in Galveston, Texas, and one in the Middle Eastern country of Qatar. This research-intensive flagship university with 10 colleges was recently ranked first in the nation by Smart Money magazine for "pay-back ratio" (what graduates earn compared to the cost of their education). The 2011 U.S. News and World Report ranked Texas A&M second nationally in their "Great Schools, Great Prices" category among public universities and 22nd overall. Many degree programs are ranked among the top 10 in the country. www.tamu.edu
 
About Wildscreen
Wildscreen is an international charity working to promote the public understanding and appreciation of the world's biodiversity and the need for its conservation through the power of wildlife imagery -www.wildscreen.org.uk Founded in 1982, Wildscreen is uniquely positioned at the heart of the global wildlife and environmental media industry, with a long standing international reputation for excellence and credibility in the fields of natural history media, communications and education. Wildscreen’s ARKive project is a unique global initiative, gathering together the very best films and photographs of the world's species into one centralized digital library, to create a stunning audio-visual record of life on Earth. ARKive’s immediate priority is to compile and complete audio-visual profiles for the c. 19,000 animals, plants and fungi listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. www.wildscreen.org.uk ; www.arkive.org
 
About the Zoological Society of London (ZSL)
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: the key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 50 countries worldwide. www.zsl.org

Request an Interview

,

,

Related Content

Other Media