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Four out of 6 great apes one step away from extinction — IUCN Red List

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Gorilla beringei
Gorilla beringei

Honolulu, 4 September 2016 (IUCN) – The Eastern Gorilla – the largest living primate – has been listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting, according to the latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress taking place in Hawaii.

Four out of six great ape species are now Critically Endangered – only one step away from going extinct – with the remaining two also under considerable threat of extinction.

Today’s IUCN Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra due to illegal hunting, and the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species. Thirty eight of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed for this update are listed as Extinct and four other species have been listed as Extinct in the Wild, meaning they only occur in cultivation.

The IUCN Red List now includes 82,954 species of which 23,928 are threatened with extinction.

Mammals threatened by illegal hunting

The Eastern Gorilla (Gorilla beringei) – which is made up of two subspecies – has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered due to a devastating population decline of more than 70% in 20 years. Its population is now estimated to be fewer than 5,000. Grauer’s Gorilla (G. b. graueri), one subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – has lost 77% of its population since 1994, declining from 16,900 individuals to just 3,800 in 2015. Killing or capture of great apes is illegal; yet hunting represents the greatest threat to Grauer’s Gorillas. The second subspecies of Eastern Gorilla – the Mountain Gorilla (G. b. beringei) -is faring better and has increased in number to around 880 individuals. Four of the six great apes – Eastern Gorilla, Western Gorilla, Bornean Orangutan and Sumatran Orangutan – are now listed as Critically Endangered, whilst the Chimpanzee and Bonobo are listed as Endangered.

“To see the Eastern gorilla – one of our closest cousins – slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” says Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating. Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet.”

The once widespread and abundant Plains Zebra (Equus quagga) has moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened. The population has reduced by 24% in the past 14 years from around 660,000 to a current estimate of just over 500,000 animals. In many countries Plains Zebra are only found in protected areas, yet population reductions have been recorded in 10 out of the 17 range states since 1992. The Plains Zebra is threatened by hunting for bushmeat and skins, especially when they move out of protected areas.

Three species of antelope found in Africa – Bay Duiker (Cephalophus dorsalis), White-bellied Duiker (Cephalophus leucogaster) and Yellow-backed Duiker (Cephalophus silvicultor) – have moved from Least Concern to Near Threatened. Whilst the populations of these species within protected areas are relatively stable, those found in other areas are decreasing due to continued illegal hunting and habitat loss.

“Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction,” says Carlo Rondinini, Coordinator of the mammal assessment at Sapienza University of Rome “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.”

Hawaiian plants threatened by invasive species

Invasive species such as pigs, goats, rats, slugs, and non-native plants are destroying the native flora in Hawai’i. The latest results show that of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed so far for The IUCN Red List (out of ca. 1,093 endemic plant species), 87% are threatened with extinction, including the Endangered ‘Ohe kiko’ola (Polyscias waimeae) – a beautiful flowering tree found only on the island of Kauai. Thirty Eight have been listed as Extinct, including the shrubs ‘Oha Wai (Cyanea eleeleensis) and Hibiscadelphus woodii. Four species have been listed as Extinct in the Wild including the Haha (Cyanea superba) last seen in the wild in 2003. Invasive species are the main threat to all of these species, with many being threatened by more than one invasive species. The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Hawaiian Plant Specialist Group anticipates the remaining species to be assessed will also be highly threatened.

“Hawaii is an example of nature at its best with spectacular examples of evolution, yet it is facing an uncertain future due to the impact of invasive species – showing how unwittingly, human actions can make nature turn against itself,” says Matt Keir, a member of the IUCN SSC Hawaiian Plant Specialist Group. “What we see happening in Hawaii is foretelling what will happen in other island or contained ecological systems. Hawaii and other nations must take urgent action to stop the spread of invasive species and to protect species with small population sizes”

The Critically Endangered flowering Haha plant Cyanea remyi, is one of the 105 extremely rare Hawai’ian plant species on the Red List with less than 50 mature individuals. Alula (Brighamia insignis) has moved from Critically Endangered to Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct in the Wild), and is one of 38 Red Listed species with less than five individuals remaining. The Alula has been so impacted by invasive species and landslides, that only one plant remained in the wild in 2014 and it has not been seen since.

This new data will be used to influence action such as listing species on the US Endangered Species Act which will assist in securing funding for conservation programs to target and control invasive species, and to fence wild areas to protect them from large mammals. Improved biosecurity to stop invasive species entering the country is essential, according to IUCN experts.

Good news for Giant Panda and Tibetan Antelope

This update of The IUCN Red List also brings some good news and shows that conservation action is delivering positive results.

Previously listed as Endangered, The Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) is now listed as Vulnerable, as its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation. The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective. However, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35% of the Panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and thus Panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades. To protect this iconic species, it is critical that the effective forest protection measures are continued and that emerging threats are addressed. The Chinese government’s plan to expand existing conservation policy for the species is a positive step and must be strongly supported to ensure its effective implementation.

Due to successful conservation actions, the Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii) has moved from Endangered to Near Threatened. The population underwent a severe decline from around one million to an estimated 65,000-72,500 in the 1980s and early 1990s. This was the result of commercial poaching for the valuable underfur – shahtoosh – which is used to make shawls. It takes 3-5 hides to make a single shawl, and as the wool cannot be sheared or combed, the animals are killed. Rigorous protection has been enforced since then, and the population is currently likely to be between 100,000 and 150,000.

Other conservation successes include the Greater Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus conditor), endemic to Australia, which has improved status, moving from Vulnerable to Near Threatened. This is due to a successful species recovery plan, which has involved reintroductions and introductions to predator-free areas. This unique nest-building rodent is the last of its kind, with its smaller relative the Lesser Stick-nest Rat (Leporillus apicalis) having died out in the Twentieth Century. The resin created by the rats to build their nests is so strong that they can last for thousands of years if they are not exposed to water.

The Bridled Nailtail Wallaby (Onychogalea fraenata), has also improved in status, having moved from Endangered to Vulnerable. Endemic to Australia, this once common species had a dramatic population decline during the 19th and early 20th centuries due to the impacts of invasive species and habitat loss. A successful translocation conservation programme establishing new populations within protected areas is enabling this species to commence the long road to recovery.

Yesterday, IUCN, its Species Survival Commission, and nine Red List partner institutions forged an exciting new commitment to support The IUCN Red List. These organizations will jointly commit more than US$10 million over the next five years towards achieving an ambitious strategic plan that aims to double the number of species assessed on The IUCN Red List by the year 2020. The institutions include: Arizona State University; BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Conservation International; NatureServe; Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; Sapienza University of Rome; Texas A&M University and the Zoological Society of London.

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For more information or interviews please contact: (In Hawaii) Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations, m+1 8086751459m +41 76 505 33 78, e-mail [email protected]
Lynne Labanne, IUCN Global Species Programme, IUCN, m +41 79 527 7221, e-mail [email protected]

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.

Global figures for the 2016-2 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

TOTAL SPECIES ASSESSED = 82,954
(Total threatened species = 23,928
Extinct = 855
Extinct in the Wild = 68
Critically Endangered = 5,107
Endangered = 7,602
Vulnerable = 11,219
Near Threatened = 5,323
Lower Risk/conservation dependent = 238 (this is an old category that is gradually being phased out of The IUCN Red List)
Least Concern = 39,053
Data Deficient = 13,489

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.

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 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 IUCN 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.

Highlights from the 2016-2 update

Below are a few examples of species that have been uplisted, downlisted or appear for the first time on The IUCN Red List.

Examples of other species that have been added in this update

  • Psychedelic Rock Gecko (Cnemaspis psychedelica) – Enters the Red List as Endangered (EN). This recently-described species is currently known only from two small offshore islands in southern Viet Nam. Illegal collection for the commercial trade is a major threat to the species.
  • Chiku Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus hidupselamanya) – Enters the Red List as Vulnerable (VU). Known from a single karst outcrop in a limestone formation in Peninsular Malaysia. The major threat is the imminent limestone quarrying of the site; it has already been identified for quarrying and it is likely that the collection site for this new species will be completely eliminated five years after quarrying begins. This represents around 40% of this lizard’s known habitat.

Rediscovered species

  • Mark’s Cyanea (Cyanea marksii) – Moved from EX to CR. This plant is endemic to Hawai?i, where it has experienced severe and ongoing decline in habitat and numbers due to the impacts of invasive plants and animals. Previously it was believed to be Extinct, but the rediscovery of 12 plants (occurring in two separate subpopualtions) resulted in it being downlisted to CR.
  • Hairy Wikstroemia (Wikstroemia villosa) – Moved from EX to CR. This plant is endemic to the island of Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. Previously thought to be Extinct, the species was downlisted to CR after surveys in appropriate habitat rediscovered 5 subpopulations for this extremely rare plant. An estimated 49 individual mature plants are now known, but populations and habitat are both in decline.

Examples of other species that have been uplisted (conservation status is worse)

  • Fawn Antechinus (Antechinus bellus) – Moved from LC to VU. Endemic to Australia, where it is distributed in the tropical monsoonal part of the Northern Territory. Its population has declined by >30% over the last 10 years, probably due to habitat loss and degradation and predation by feral cats.
  • Giant Noctule (Nyctalus lasiopterus) – Moved from NT to VU. This bat has a very scattered distribution through central and southern Europe and north Africa. Deforestation, particularly the loss of old trees, is a problem in many parts of the range and is likely to be causing a population decline. The range is fragmented and the colonies tend to be mainly small. Dozens of individuals have been found dead at wind farms in Spain. A critical decline is also suspected in Ukraine and European Russia.
  • Russian Desman (Desmana moschata) – Moved from VU to EN. This species has a fragmented distribution. Surveys in Russia indicated that the population declined from 27,120 in 2001 to 13,320 in surveys from 2009-2013, which is a 51% reduction. Its range and habitat quality are also thought to be declining, and the species faces a number of serious ongoing threats including bycatch, habitat loss and degradation, water pollution, and competition from introduced species.
  • Muntjac (Muntiacus vuquangensis) – Moved from EN to CR. Endemic to the Annamite mountains of Lao PDR, Viet Nam and eastern Cambodia.The Large-antlered Muntjac is rarely encountered in its known range, suggesting that it occurs in very low densities and likely has a small population size. The massive decline in this species has been linked to over-hunting.
  • Hoge’s Side-necked Turtle (Mesoclemmys hogei) – Moved from EN to CR. Ten of the 18 known subpopulations have been lost over the past 40 years. Endemic to Brazil, where it inhabits low-lying areas in the Rio Paraiba drainage of the state of Rio de Janeiro and southern Minas Gerais, and in the nearby Rio Itapemirim drainage of southern Espirito Santo.: Habitat destruction is the principal cause of population declines.
  • Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) – Moved from LC to VU. Threatened by habitat destruction and fragmentation; bushfires; disease Tnd drought associated mortality. Public concern for the species is high, and whilst management plans are in place, improvements need to be made to protect this species as a recent parliamentary inquiry concluded that the national conservation and management strategy was largely ineffective.

About The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (or The IUCN Red List) is an invaluable resource to guide conservation action and policy decisions. It is a health check for our planet – a Barometer of Life. It 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 – Arizona State University, BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Conservation International; NatureServe;; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Sapienza University of Rome; Texas A&M University;; and Zoological Society of London. http://www.iucnredlist.org https://www.facebook.com/iucn.red.list https://twitter.com/IUCNRedList http://support.iucnredlist.org/

About IUCN

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN’s work focusses on valuing and conserving nature, ensuring effective and equitable governance of its use, and deploying nature-based solutions to global challenges in climate, food and development. IUCN supports scientific research, manages field projects all over the world, and brings governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organisation, with almost 1,300 government and NGO Members and more than 15,000 volunteer experts in 185 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by almost 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. http://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 Arizona State University (ASU)

Ranked #1 in the U.S. for innovation, Arizona State University (ASU) is a new model for American higher education, combining academic excellence, entrepreneurial energy and broad access. It serves more than 70,000 students in metropolitan Phoenix, AZ. ASU champions intellectual and cultural diversity, and welcomes students from all fifty states and more than one hundred nations across the globe. ASU’s Center for Biodiversity Outcomes (CBO) is a partnership between the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability (GIOS) and the School of Life Sciences (SoLS) via partnerships with NGO’s, companies, and governmental organizations. Follow CBO’s work on Twitter.

About BirdLife

BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. Together we are 120 BirdLife Partners worldwide – one per country – and growing, with almost 11 million supporters, 7000 local conservation groups and 7400 staff. Find out more at http://www.birdlife.org / http://www.facebook.com/BirdLifeInternational

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 25th anniversary 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 http://www.conservation.org , or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

About NatureServe

NatureServe is a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to providing the scientific basis for effective conservation action. Through its network of 82 natural heritage programs and conservation data centres 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. http://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 conserved seed 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. http://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/

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 space- grant 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. http://www.tamu.edu

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. http://www.zsl.org

Media Contact

Ewa Magiera
[email protected]
808-675-1459
@IUCN

http://www.iucn.org

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