Mammals face extinction crisis, says IUCN report

Posted by Laura Grant on October 7, 2008
Posted in Conservation

“The damage industries and commerce do to people and the environment is real, it is considerable, and it is unacceptable,” said Valli Moosa, the president of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who was, until recently, the chairman of South Africa’s electricity utility Eskom.

Speaking at the opening of the conservation body’s 10-day meeting in Barcelona on Sunday, the former SA minister of environmental affairs called on businesses to change their attitudes to environmental issues and largely blamed them and unfettered markets for the world’s environmental woes, the BBC reports.

“Leading entrepreneurs and markets have certainly contributed to the growth of the global economy; yet while individuals may be moral, markets are not,” he was quoted as saying.

A day later the conservation body released its 2008 Red List, the “global standard for conservation monitoring”, which paints a grim picture of the state of the environment. It confirms that the world’s mammals and amphibians face an “extinction crisis”.

At least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction and 1,983 species (32 percent) of amphibians either threatened or extinct – 366 species have been added to the Red List this year.

Habitat loss and degradation affect 40 percent of the world’s mammals. It is most extreme in Central and South America, West, East and Central Africa, Madagascar, and in South and Southeast Asia, the report says. Over harvesting is wiping out larger mammals, especially in Southeast Asia, but also in parts of Africa and South America.

The 2008 Red List includes 44,838 species (up from just over 41,000 in 2007), of which 16,928 are threatened with extinction (38 percent). Of these, 3,246 are in the highest category of threat, Critically Endangered, 4,770 are Endangered and 8,912 are Vulnerable to extinction.

All is not entirely lost, though, because, conservation has successfully brought species back from the brink of extinction, the IUCN says. “The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to prevent future extinctions,” says Dr Jane Smart, Head of IUCN’s Species Programme. “We now know what species are threatened, what the threats are and where – we have no more excuses to watch from the sidelines.”

Click here to go to a photogallery and case studies of some of the animals on the IUCN Red List visit

The New York Times Dot Earth reports that Valli Moosa also said in his opening that although the United States and the other industrialised nations must lead the way in reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, “It is not good enough for big developing countries to take absolutely no responsibility just because the biggest contributors to climate change are the developed countries.”

And: “Developing countries like my own [South Africa] must become part of, and abide by, the same set of transparent and enforceable rules.”

Photograph: Tasmanian Devil © David Hewett, from IUCN Red Data list

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