Keep up with the latest news from the Indicators & Assessments Unit.
Wildlife comeback in Europe (26th September 2013)
A study into the comeback of species in Europe has been completed by the Zoological Society of London, BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) for the Rewilding Initiative . Its main purpose was to identify the main drivers for the recovery of a selected number of wildlife species, in order to learn important conservation lessons for the future.
The results show that a wide-ranging comeback of iconic species has taken place in many regions across Europe over the past 50 years. Legal protection of species and sites emerged as one of the main reasons behind this recovery, while active reintroductions and re-stockings have also been important factors.
Read the full news story here
BirdLife and EBCC join wildlife comeback study (18th July 2013)
In 2011, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) started this wildlife comeback study, commissioned by Rewilding Europe, which mainly includes iconic mammal and bird species covering different geographical regions and habitats in our continent.
The study’s main goal is to generate a science-based overview of changes in abundance and distribution during the period 1960-2010 of wildlife species that have shown a considerable comeback in Europe. This can provide important lessons for future conservation of these and other species.
Click here for the full news story.
The latest update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (2nd July 2013)
The latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ update adds a further 4,807 species to the Red List; bringing the current total up to 70,294 species. Of these, almost 30% are known to be threatened with extinction. This latest report shows concerning levels of decline for a number of species.
There are very few species of freshwater cetacean remaining so the assessment of these species and their assigned extinction risk is extremely important in gauging the need for conservation actions for these species. The Yangtze Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena asiaeorientalis asiaeorientalis) - a subspecies of the Narrow-ridged Finless Porpoise – has now been assessed for the first time. The Yangtze Finless Porpoise is only found in the Yangtze River and two adjoining lakes in China. In recent years it has seen an increase in a number of threats including intensifying vessel traffic along the river, sand mining and pollution as well as increases in illegal fishing. Since the 1980s, this species’ numbers have been falling by 5% each year, leading to an estimate of 1,800 individuals in 2006. “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.”
Other updates included the declaration of three species as Extinct. This included the Cape Verde Giant Skink (Chioninia coctei). This species was isolated in 3 locations within the Cape Verde Islands (a single island and two small islets) but was driven to extinction by the introduction of rats and cats which became the major predators of the species.
The first global reassessment of conifers has been carried out since the last complete assessment in 1998. Conifers are the world’s largest and oldest organisms and the levels of decline observed within this group have been described as “worrying”. The latest assessment states that 34% of the world’s conifers are now threatened with extinction; this is a 4% increase on the total presented in the 1998 assessment. It is not all bad news however; the Lawson’s Cypress (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana) has seen its status improve to Near Threatened. This species was heavily traded but an increase in conservation action for this species has aided in its protection and it is believed that this species could be listed as Least Concern within 10 years.
“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.”
Click here for the full IUCN press release.
Slithering towards extinction (15th February 2013)
Our latest publication shows that 19% of the world’s reptiles are threatened with extinction. Extinction risk is not spread evenly across the group: roughly one in five lizard species and one in ten snake species threatened, compared to half of turtles and tortoises.
The often restricted range of reptiles and their specific biological and environmental requirements, coupled with generally low mobility, make reptiles particularly susceptible to threats from habitat loss. Harvesting is also a significant threat, particularly for species of turtles and tortoises.
This study, a collaborative effort of more than 200 researchers, is part of our assessment work of a number of different species groups which were previously underrepresented on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It presents a first picture of the global status of reptiles against which we can then assess trends in extinction risk over time, and clearly shows that reptiles – which are often overlooked in conservation decisions – urgently require a place on the conservation agenda.
Every beetle has a story to tell (11th February 2013)
The Indicators and Assessments Unit recently hosted international dung beetle experts to assess the Red List status of 272 species. Of these, 23 have been provisionally categorised into Near Threatened or threatened Red List categories.
Click here to read our blog about the event.
Madagascar’s palms near extinction (17th October 2012)
The latest IUCN Red List update shows that 83% of Madagascar’s palms are threatened with extinction, putting the livelihoods of local people at risk. Overall, the update brings the total number of species listed on The IUCN Red List to 65,518, of which 20,219 are threatened with extinction.
Amongst the new assessments are a number of freshwater molluscs, which were worked on by the Indicators and Assessments Unit. With the sampled assessment of 1,500 freshwater molluscs now drawing to a close, first indications are that nearly 30% of these important freshwater organisms are threatened with extinction, with levels particularly high in Europe and North America.
Click here for the full IUCN press release.
Spineless - the Status and Trends of the World's Invertebrates (31st August 2012)
One fifth of the world’s invertebrates may be threatened with extinction according to ‘Spineless’, a report published by the Zoological Society of London, in conjunction with IUCN and Wildscreen. Invertebrates may be the most diverse and numerous group on this planet, but despite current efforts they are still underrepresented in conservation plans and are understudied.
Through Spineless, the importance and plight of some of the most fascinating and diverse species is brought to life.
For more coverage on the report click on the links below:
Securing a future for sawfishes (10th July 2012)
Sawfish populations have declined dramatically over the last half-century due to the overexploitation in fisheries and the degradation of their near shore habitats. Currently, all species of sawfish are listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List, and there is an urgent need to develop a focussed global action plan to safeguard their survival and recovery.
As part of this, the IUCN SSC Shark Specialist Group invited sawfish experts to a recent workshop at ZSL, which involved several I&A and ZSL Conservation Programmes staff. The aims were to draft a global conservation strategy for sawfishes, update IUCN Red List assessments for all species and build a viable, working and enthusiastic network of sawfish experts in the process.
Representatives of the Shark Specialist Group are today presenting the workshop outcomes to the thirteenth session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Committee on Fisheries in Rome. It is hoped that this provides the first step to linking the upcoming conservation strategy (to be published in 2013) straight to the policy level.
Securing the web of life (19th June 2012)
The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reveals that of the 63,837 species assessed, 19,817 are threatened with extinction, which equates to around 31% of assessed species.
The publication, which coincides with the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, highlights the effects that we have had on species globally and the direction we have to take. “A green economy is one that values all species, whether they have market value or not. To stop the rapid increase of threatened species and ecosystems the Rio + 20 Earth Summit must succeed in laying the foundation of a new development path that values all life.” says Jonathan Baillie, director of Conservation Programmes.
The Indicators and Assessments Unit has compiled a large number of assessments for different taxonomic groups, aiming to broaden the species coverage on the IUCN Red List in order to provide a more representative indicator of the status and trends of global biodiversity. In this update, many of the assessments for freshwater molluscs and cuttlefish, completed within the unit in collaboration with many international experts, will be published.
Globally, it is estimated that 29% of freshwater molluscs are at risk of extinction, which mirrors the IUCN Red List’s 27% of African freshwater fish being reported as threatened. Exploitation of water resources through damming and modification of rivers, sedimentation, overfishing, pollution and invasive species have all been named as contributing to declining freshwater ecosystem health.
“This Red List update again shows that our management of freshwater systems is falling way short of securing this vital resource in the face of ever increasing human pressures. It is time to realise that conserving our ecosystems is not merely a privilege, but essential to our own well-being.” says Monika Böhm from the Indicators and Assessments Unit.
Many millions of people rely on marine resources for their daily lives, yet we still know comparatively little about our seas: for example, 76% of cuttlefish have been classed as Data Deficient. With only a tiny fraction of the global marine environment designated with formal protection, representatives from ZSL will be present at Rio calling for greater marine protection as part of the Marine Reserves Coalition.
Extinct! (6th June 2012)
Dr. Ben Collen and Dr Monika Böhm were recently interviewed for the BBC Radio 4 programme “Extinct!”. The programme discussed whether the world is currently entering a sixth great mass extinction as result of habitat destruction and climate change. It asks how far towards this 75% loss of species we have come and whether there is anything that we can do about it.
Living Planet Report 2012 (15th May 2012)
The 2012 Living Planet Report describes alarming trends both in terms of global biodiversity and the global ecological footprint amongst other indicators.
Global biodiversity is measured using the Living Planet Index (LPI), which describes trends in vertebrate populations. The LPI has declined globally by 30% since 1970 and more worryingly in the tropics there has been an even greater decline of 60%. These trends are seen across Marine, Tropical and Terrestrial systems, however the most extreme case is seen in Tropical Freshwater populations, which have suffered an especially severe decline of 70%. Although trends in Temperate regions are generally more stable, it seems to be some of the poorest countries with the richest levels of biodiversity which are undergoing the most rapid declines.
The global ecological footprint index measures the area of biologically productive land and water required to provide the renewable resources that people use, for example agriculture and carbon sequestration. The world population is currently using resources at a rate equivalent to what one and a half earths could supply, a trend which only seems likely to increase. Unsurprisingly, countries with higher incomes tend to have larger ecological footprints, with the U.S.A. having the greatest per capita footprint, with each individual on average using resources at four times the sustainable level.
The implications of these observations are far reaching and ultimately influence everyone on the planet. Biodiversity and functioning ecosystems can essentially be seen as the life support systems that allow life on earth to continue. At present, human demands for food, water, energy and materials are leading to these resources being overexploited. If this overexploitation continues, we run the risk of allowing these resources to collapse, which would have huge implications both for ourselves and other living organisms.
The report also outlines how we can begin to think about solutions to these problems. Ultimately we need to make better decisions about our lives, reduce our Ecological Footprint and find a more sustainable way to live within the earth’s means by preserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The Living Planet Report is a collaboration between WWF, ZSL, GFN and ESA.
Update on Arctic Biodiversity Monitoring (24th April 2012)
The Arctic Species Trend Index (ASTI) tracks trends in Arctic vertebrate populations. The most recent ASTI report is the result of collaboration between the Circumpolar Biodiversity Monitoring Program the Zoological Society of London and the World Wildlife Fund. The ASTI is important as a tool to inform the development of policy for effective conservation of the Arctic.
In the most recent reports, released at the International Polar Year, the ASTI dataset has been updated and now covers 37% of all known Arctic vertebrate species. The data were thoroughly interrogated and spatial biodiversity analysis utilised to produce the most recent findings.
A thorough investigation of a subset of data revealed that marine populations have increased in abundance since 1970. Fish, in particular, show a dramatic increase; however, this was dependent on region, with stocks recovering in the Bering Sea and declining in the Atlantic. Marine mammal populations have also fared well, although they are unlikely to have returned to their historical levels. Marine birds showed signs of recovery until the mid 1980’s, but they have since declined, and the causes for this are likely to vary for each species. There was some evidence for declines in sea-ice related species, but more monitoring is required before an overall trend index can be calculated.
Spatial analyses showed that the proportion of locations with increasing or stable populations has declined since the 1960’s. This could reflect a focus on declining populations in recent data collection efforts or widespread decline in Arctic vertebrate populations. At a regional level spatial analysis revealed clusters of population growth and decline, for example increases in the Bering Sea and declining fish stocks in the Labrador Sea.
Read the key findings here. Key findings ASTI 2012 report (5.3 MB)
The Secret Lives of Penguins (11th April 2012)
“Hidden” camera traps have been used to capture the year round antics of Gentoo penguins (Pygoscelis papua) at Brown Bluff on the Antarctic Peninsula and King penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus) huddling over winter at Salisbury Plain on South Georgia. Environmental issues such as the expansion of fisheries and disease are posing new threats to penguins, making monitoring them essential. However, penguin research normally only occurs over the summer, when scientists can reach the colonies. The new time lapse cameras, that researchers from the Zoological Society of London and the University of Oxford journeyed over 9000 miles to set up, have now captured parts of the penguin life cycle that are not normally observed.
ZSL researcher Dr. Ben Collen says: “Antarctica is one of the world’s least explored regions, making it all the more important for us to collect worthwhile data on wildlife. New information is vital for making informed conservation decisions, so we are able to best manage species under pressure and deal with the wider global implications of climate change”.
Camera traps in the cold (9th March 2012)
Camera traps are increasingly used by researchers and conservationists. The photos and film they produce are utilized in a variety of ways, from investigating population dynamics to capturing rare species, including those once thought extinct. The footage they capture is also an excellent resource for communicating the importance of conservation and a good way of sparking the interest of the public in the animals being studied.
Ben Collen, a research fellow at the Institute of Zoology (ZSL), along with his colleague Tom Hart, are currently working to develop the use of camera traps in Antarctica as a means of charting population dynamics of penguins. By taking photos at regular, timed intervals, time lapse footage can be produced in order to investigate specific events “including timing of first arrival [of birds to Antarctica], first breeding, departure and chick fledging, as well as population numbers,” Collen explains, adding that, “consistent measurements of these types of data over time will hopefully tell us how penguins are adapting (or otherwise) to the different threats that they face; principally a changing climate.”
This story has been covered by: Mongabay.com
From frogs to springsnails – IUCN Red List update (10th November 2011)
The latest IUCN Red List update brings the total number of species reviewed to more than 61,900. Alarmingly, 25% of mammals are at risk of extinction, and the Western Black Rhino has now been declared extinct. However, there’s also a glimmer of hope with the present update highlighting a number of conservation successes, such as an increase in the population of Southern White Rhino to over 20,000 individuals.
ZSL and collaborators’ work on the Sampled Red List Index has contributed new assessments of plants, butterflies and freshwater molluscs to this latest update. Plant species are now much better represented, and 300 species of butterfly and more than 800 freshwater mollusc species have now been added or updated.
If you go down to the woods tomorrow... (29th August 2011)
The Living Planet Index has many applications and can be used to assess regional population trends. We are currently working with the Rewilding Europe initiative to produce an in depth report on European vertebrate trends in the past 50 years.
'Rewilding' is a landscape scale approach to conservation. This project focuses on returning areas abandoned by humans back into suitable habitat for native wildlife (such as bears, storks and ibex) and provide benefits humans through tourism and ecosystem services.
Looking ahead: Predicting species extinctions (18th August 2011)
Global species extinction typically represents the end point in a long sequence of population declines and local extinctions. In local population level studies there are limited insights into the process of population decline and extinction. Moreover there is still little appreciation of how local processes scale up to global patterns.
A recent paper published by scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the University of Cambridge, Yale University and the WWF presents a new model for predicting extinction, utilizing the Living Planet Index . The model aims to predict species extinctions based upon the analysis of LPI population trends and the Pantheria database on mammal traits.
This could provide conservationists with a tool for predicting species extiction patterns which, may go a way to developing a more preventative approach to targeting species conservation efforts. "We hope that our work goes some way to providing the information needed to prescribe ways to counteract wildlife declines" says Dr Ben Collen.
A grain of hope in the desert (16th June 2011)
The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species shows that while many species continue to decline, it is not a losing battle. Captive breeding and re-introduction efforts have allowed the Arabian oryx - hunted to near extinction in the 1970s - to be moved from the Endangered category to Vulnerable.
"We need to continue to learn from the success stories, scaling them up to more species, over greater areas and improve the odds for wildlife still on the brink of extinction", says Dr Ben Collen.
Evolution Lost: Global wildlife stocktake (27th October 2010)
The most comprehensive stocktake of the world’s vertebrates reveals that populations of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species have declined on average by 30 per cent over 40 years, and one fifth of all vertebrates species are threatened with extinction.
Evolution Lost, produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), uses the latest IUCN Red List of Threatened Species data and the WWF Living Planet Index population data to give us a complete picture of the state of the world’s vertebrates.
Over the past four decades terrestrial mammal populations are estimated to have declined by a quarter, marine fish by a fifth and freshwater fish by as much as 65%.
In addition to providing a baseline for the health of vertebrates, Evolution Lost also highlights the unique evolutionary history that we have lost through past species extinctions. The Guam flying fox, Las Vegas valley leopard frog and the Cape Verde giant skink are just some of the of the species no longer stalking our planet today.
The new IUCN Red List of Threatened Species data in Evolution Lost will also be published in a paper in the international journal Science, which will highlight that biodiversity would have declined by an additional 20 per cent if conservation processes had not been in place.
Download Evolution Lost and find out more here www.zsl.org/EvolutionLost
Severe declines in tropical species abundance as natural resources are exhausted at an alarming rate – WWF 2010 Living Planet Report (13th October 2010)
The 2010 edition of WWF’s Living Planet Report – the leading survey of the planet’s health – shows populations of tropical species are plummeting and humanity’s demands on natural resources are sky-rocketing to 50 per cent more than the earth can sustain. The biennial report, produced in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network, uses the global Living Planet Index as a measure of the health of almost 8,000 populations of more than 2,500 species. The global Index shows a decrease by 30 per cent since 1970, with the tropics hardest hit showing a 60 per cent decline in less than 40 years.
Significant declines in African freshwater species, pose major threat to availability of resources (2nd September, 2010).
In a report published today by the IUCN, it was found that 21% of African freshwater species are threatened with extinction. The study was based on regional conservation assessments of 5,167 species of freshwater fish, molluscs, crabs, dragonflies and damselflies, and selected aquatic plants, some of which were assessed as part of the Sampled Red List Index (SRLI) project.
This story has been covered by The IUCN
Large mammal population declines in Africa’s protected areas (12th July, 2010)
A multi-species index based on nearly 600 population time series from 78 African Protected Areas points to a 59% decline in large mammal abundance between 1970 and 2005. While this suggests that African PAs have failed to mitigate human-induced threats to large mammal populations, “the situation outside the parks is almost undoubtedly worse”, says lead author Ian Craigie. In addition, increasing trends at a regional level demonstrate that protected areas can be effective if properly managed.
World governments fail to deliver on 2010 biodiversity targets (5th May, 2010)
World leaders have failed to deliver commitments made in 2002 to reduce the global rate of biodiversity loss by 2010, finds a new study published in the leading journal Science. "Biodiversity is still being lost as fast as ever, and we have made little headway in reducing the pressures on species, habitats and ecosystems." said Dr Stuart Butchard, the paper’s lead author.
High Arctic species on thin ice (17th March, 2010)
An assessment of the Arctic’s biodiversity reports a 26 per cent decline in species populations in the high Arctic. “Rapid changes to the Arctic’s ecosystems will have consequences for the Arctic that will be felt globally” says lead-author Louise McRae from ZSL. In contrast, population levels of species living in the sub Arctic and low Arctic are relatively stable or increasing.
Efforts to sustain biodiversity fall short (19th November 2009)
With nations admitting that they will fail to achieve their goal of significantly cutting biodiversity loss by 2010, a flurry of work is under way to develop new, more robust targets and ways of monitoring progress. "The indicators we have at the moment will slot into the new framework, but new ones will also have to be developed", Dr Ben Collen, ZSL.
Story has been reported in Nature news .
Release of the 2009 IUCN Red List (22nd November 2009)
More than a third of species assessed in a major international biodiversity study are threatened with extinction, scientists have warned. Out of the 47,677 species in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, 17,291 were deemed to be at serious risk. "At what point will society truly respond to this growing crisis?" asks Prof. Jonathan Baillie, ZSL.
Freshwater crabs are feeling the pinch (27th July 2009)
One-sixth of the world’s freshwater crabs are threatened with extinction, mainly through habitat loss and pollution. Dr Ben Collen, ZSL, said: "We must set clear goals to reverse these trends and ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out the small things that provide us with great benefits, such as nutrient cycling and even climate regulation."
Wildlife in a Changing World (6th July 2009)
The release of "Wildlife in a Changing World" , an analysis of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, highlights the plight of the world’s biodiversity despite the commitments of governments worldwide to try and reverse the trend.
Chapter 5 (" Broadening the coverage of biodiversity assessments ") gives an update on the SRLI assessments.
National Red Lists now online (4th June 2009)
International targets set for reducing biodiversity loss may still be achieved with the help of a new online conservation tool. The National Red LIst website hosts a centralised database of National and Regional Red Lists and information about the red listing process at national and regional levels.
Visit The National Red List website to find out more.
Convention on Migratory Species (December 2008)
Animal migrations provide some of the most spell binding images in the natural world. Through the United Nations body charged with protecting migratory species - the Convention on Migratory Species - we are monitoring populations of migratory species.
The final report shows mixed prospects for migratory species.
2008 Living Planet Report (29th October 2008)
The 2008 Living Planet report shows that over a time period when human population has almost doubled, animal populations have declined by around 30%. Direct anthropogenic threats to biodiversity result from habitat loss (especially due to agriculture), overexploitation of species (especially due to fishing and hunting, pollution, the spread of invasive species or genes and climate change).
Mammals under threat (6th October 2008)
The Red List shows that one in four mammal species are at risk of extinction, with habitat loss, hunting, climate change and disease being the main threats mammals are facing. At least 188 mammals were assessed as Critically Endangered, 29 of which may already be extinct (such as the Yangtze River Dolphin).
This story has been covered by ITV News Online .
Reptile loss threatens global biodiversity (6th October 2008)
The SRLI reveals that more than a fifth of the world's reptiles are threatened with extinction. Dr Jonathan Baillie (ZSL) describes the SRLI as "a quantum leap forward in our understanding of biodiversity. The disadvantage is you can't look at all individual species, but to address the bigger problems we have to understand things at an ecosystem, or habitat, level".
This story has been covered by The Independent Online .
Primates face extinction crisis (5th August 2008)
Habitat loss, caused by burning and clearing of tropical forests, threatens the survival of the world’s primates. Hunting and the illegal wildlife trade exacerbate the problem. 48% of primate species are currently threatened, with Asia having the greatest proportion of threatened primates. Here, 71% of species are at risk of extinction.
This story has been covered by BBC News Online .
Wildlife populations plummeting (16th May 2008)
The Living Planet Index reveals the devastating impact of humanity as biodiversity has plummeted by almost a third in the 35 years to 2005, a rate "unprecedented since the extinction of the dinosaurs". Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%.
Medical potential of biodiversity (24th April 2008)
The natural world is full of medical potential, but scientists at Harvard are warning that these potential cures could be lost forever.
Watch a video of the Sky News report , featuring an interview with Dr Ben Collen.
Pygmy hippo rediscovery (11th March 2008)
After fears it was extinct, a pygmy hippo is caught on camera in Liberia. The pygmy hippo is found only in West Africa, where less than 3,000 remain in the wild. It was rediscoverd during camera trapping in Sapo National Park, Liberia, as part of the development of the WCS/ZSL Wildlife Picture Index.
Long-eared jerboa caught on film for the first time (10th December 2007)
An expedition as part of the Edge Programme has recorded footage of the long-eared jerboa, a small nocturnal, desert rodent listed as Endangered on the 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The species, described as “a bit like the Mickey Mouse of the desert, cute and comic in equal measure" by Dr Jonathan Baillie, was filmed during an expedition to the Gobi desert in order to find out about the animal's status and ecology in order to develop a thorough action plan.
The story has been covered by BBC News Online .
Launch of the Edge Programme (16th January 2007)
The EDGE of Existence programme aims to address the issue of conserving our evolutionary heritage by researching and raising awareness of the world’s EDGE species (Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered).
The story has been covered by BBC News Online .
Launch of the 2006 Living Planet report (24th October 2006)
The human race is consuming the Earth's natural resources so fast we will need at least two planets' worth by 2050, wildlife campaigners are warning today. The 2006 Living Planet Index indicates that vertebrate populations have declined by around 30% since 1970.
This story has been covered by Sky News Online .
Launch of the 2006 IUCN Red List (1st May 2006)
The 2006 IUCN Red List shows that loss of biodiversity is increasing despite a global convention committing governments to stem it. The list includes a region-by-region assessment of some marine species groups, such as the elasmobranchs, which are disappearing at an unprecedented rate worldwide.
This story has been covered by BBC News Online .