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Good news for Giant Panda, Tibetan Antelope in updated IUCN Red List

  • The latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports that species like the Giant Panda, Tibetan Antelope, the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, and the Greater Stick-nest rate have improved in their conservation status thanks to effective conservation efforts.
  • However, over-hunting is wiping out many mammals such as the Plains Zebra and Duikers, which have moved from Least Concern to a threatened status.
  • The updated list also has some new entrants such as the recently described Psychedelic Rock Gecko and the Chiku Bent-toed Gecko.

The latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reports that species like the Giant Panda, Tibetan Antelope, the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, and the Greater Stick-nest rat have improved in their conservation status thanks to effective conservation efforts.

The revised list, with the updated status of 82,954 species, was released yesterday at the IUCN World Conservation Congress currently underway in Hawaii.

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is no longer Endangered and has been down-listed to Vulnerable, according to the update.

“This reclassification recognizes decades of successful conservation efforts led by the Chinese government and demonstrates that investment in the conservation of iconic species like giant pandas does pay off – and benefits our society as well as species,” Lo Sze Ping, CEO WWF-China, said in a statement.

However, climate change threatens to wipe out more than 35 percent of the giant panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years, which could have serious impacts on the species’ populations, conservationists fear. About 2,000 giant pandas are estimated to remain in the wild.

The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) previously listed as Endangered is now down-listed to Vulnerable. Sheilalau, public domain.

The Tibetan Antelope has moved from Endangered to Near Threatened in the updated list. Commercial poaching for shahtoosh to make shawls decimated populations of the antelope in the 1980s and the early 1990s. But intensive protection measures have helped the Tibetan Antelopes bounce back from around 70,000 individuals in the early 1990s to 100,000-150,000 antelopes today, according to the IUCN. Similarly, translocation programs have helped establish new populations of the Bridled Nailtail Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata) within protected areas, leading to a better conservation status on the IUCN Red List.

However, many species are doing worse than before. More than a quarter of the species assessed are threatened with extinction, according to the latest update. The Eastern Gorilla or the Grauer’s gorilla, for example, is now listed as Critically Endangered, mainly due to illegal hunting.

Hunting is also wiping out the once-abundant Plains Zebra (Equus quagga). Over the last 14 years, zebra population has declined by 24 percent and the species has now moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Three species of African antelopes — Bay Duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis), White-bellied Duiker (Cephalophus leucogaster) and Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) — have suffered similar fates and have been up-listed to Near Threatened from Least Concern.

The plain’s zebra has now moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List. Photo by JamesDeMers, Pixabay, public domain.

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) too have been moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable due to disease and widespread destruction of their habitat.

“Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction,” Carlo Rondinini, Coordinator of the mammal assessment at Sapienza University of Rome, said in a statement. “We have now reassessed nearly half of all mammals. While there are some successes to celebrate, this new data must act as a beacon to guide the conservation of those species which continue to be under threat.”

The updated list also has some new entrants. The recently described Psychedelic Rock Gecko (Cnemaspis psychedelica), for instance, enters the list as an Endangered species. The Chiku Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus hidupselamanya), known from a single limestone hill in Peninsular Malaysia, enters the list as a Vulnerable species.

Some species have also been re-classified from extinct to Critically Endangered. The Hawaiian plant Mark’s Cyanea (Cyanea marksii), for example, was previously believed to be extinct. But 12 plants of this species were recently rediscovered resulting in the down-listing of its status to Critically Endangered. Similarly, the rediscovery of the Hawaiian plant Hairy Wikstroemia (Wikstroemia villosa) resulted in a revised listing of Critically Endangered from Extinct.

Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) have been moved from Least Concern to Vulnerable due to widespread destruction of its habitat and disease. Photo by skeeze, Public domain.