Overfishing has pushed the Pacific bluefin tuna from Least Concern to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Photo by: © Monterey Bay Aquarium – Randy Wilder.
Today, 22,413 species are threatened with extinction, according to the most recent update of the IUCN Red List. This is a rise of 310 species from the last update in the summer. The update includes the Pacific bluefin tuna (moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable), the Chinese pufferfish (newly listed as Critically Endangered), and Chapman’s pygmy chameleon (also newly listed as Critically Endangered).
“Each update of the IUCN Red List makes us realize that our planet is constantly losing its incredible diversity of life, largely due to our destructive actions to satisfy our growing appetite for resources,” IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre said. “But we have scientific evidence that protected areas can play a central role in reversing this trend. Experts warn that threatened species poorly represented in protected areas are declining twice as fast as those which are well represented. Our responsibility is to increase the number of protected areas and ensure that they are effectively managed so that they can contribute to saving our planet’s biodiversity.”
Chapman’s pygmy chameleon (Rhampholeon chapmanorum), native to Mozambique, hasn’t been seen since 1998, just six years after it was described. If not extinct, it is found in a single degraded forest. Meanwhile, the Chinese pufferfish’s (Takifugu chinensis) population has dropped by 99.99 percent in just 40 years due to overexploitation for sashimi in Japan. The Pacific bluefin tuna (Thunnus orientalis) is also threatened by overfishing for sushi and sashimi in Asia. Its population has dropped 19 to 33 percent in the last 22 years.
“The growing food market is putting unsustainable pressure on these and other species,” said Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Group. “We urgently need to impose strict limits on harvesting and take appropriate measures to protect habitats.”
In all, the IUCN Red List has assessed 76,199 species. However, this is a drop in the bucket compared to how many species have been described on planet Earth: almost two million. Moreover, many family groups are better represented than others. For example, the IUCN Red List has evaluated all of the world’s birds and mammals, but only seven percent of the world’s flowering plants, 0.5 percent of the world’s insects, and 0.003 percent of the world’s mushrooms—meaning just one mushroom out of over 30,000 described species.
New tapir? Scientists dispute biological discovery of the century
(11/13/2014) Nearly a year ago, scientists announced an incredible discovery: a new tapir species from the western Amazon in Brazil and Colombia. The announcement was remarkable for a number of reasons: this was the biggest new land mammal discovered in more than 20 years and was only the fifth tapir known to the world. But within months other researchers expressed doubt over the veracity of the new species.
Mapping mistake leaves wildlife at risk
(11/12/2014) Scientists have discovered a new, endangered plant species in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in an area that is supposed to be protected as a reserve. However, mapping errors effectively moved the reserve’s boundaries 50 kilometers to the west, opening up the region and its vulnerable wildlife to human disturbance.
Perched on the precipice: India’s vultures threatened by E.U. sale of killer drug
(11/05/2014) Poisoned by cattle carcasses treated with Diclofenac, India’s vultures died by the millions in the 1990s. A captive breeding program is helping to save the once-ubiquitous birds, but the very drug that drove India’s vultures to the precipice of extinction has been given a green light in Italy and Spain.
De-protection of Protected Areas ramps up in Brazil, ‘compromises the capacity’ of ecosystems
(10/31/2014) Brazil has reserved about 17.6 percent of its land (1.5 million square kilometers) to receive protection from unauthorized exploitation of resources. However, despite significant expansions in protected areas since the mid-2000s, the formation of Protected Areas has stagnated in the country since 2009, and many have had their protections completely revoked.
‘Too many people’: Philippine island being deforested despite extensive protections
(10/31/2014) About an hour and a half plane ride from the Philippine capital Manila is Palawan, a long, narrow island home to about a quarter of all the animal species found in the country. But the province is losing its forests at a rapid clip due to human population increases, logging, quarrying, mining, and even a huge palm plantation.
The Search for Lost Frogs: one of conservation’s most exciting expeditions comes to life in new book
(10/30/2014) One of the most exciting conservation initiatives in recent years was the Search for Lost Frogs in 2010. The brainchild of scientist, photographer, and frog-lover, Robin Moore, the initiative brought a sense of hope—and excitement—to a whole group of animals often ignored by the global public—and media outlets. Now, Moore has written a fascinating account of the expedition: In Search of Lost Frogs.