A grain of hope in the desert
Thursday 16 June 2011
The regal Arabian Oryx, which was hunted to near extinction, is now facing a more secure future according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
The Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) , a species of antelope found only on the Arabian Peninsula, is locally known as Al Maha. It is believed the last wild individual was shot in 1972. This year, thanks to successful captive breeding and re-introduction efforts, the oryx has finally qualified for a move from the Endangered category to Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List—the first time that a species that was once Extinct in the Wild has improved by three categories. Its wild population now stands at 1,000 individuals.
Although we are achieving successes, there are some alarming new findings. Of the 19 species of amphibian (frogs, toads and salamanders) that have been added to the IUCN Red List this year, eight are listed as Critically Endangered. Amphibians remain one of the most threatened species groups with an estimated 41% at risk of extinction; the main threats they face include habitat loss, pollution, disease and invasive species.
In the case of New Caledonia’s endemic reptiles, which have been assessed for the first time, two thirds (67%) of species within this group for which we have sufficient data are at risk of extinction. Many of these reptiles are threatened by ongoing habitat loss and fragmentation as New Caledonia’s nickel mining industry continues to expand. This is compounded by the effects of introduced species; for example, deer and pigs damage remaining available habitat, and fire ants, which are invasive alien species, decimate lizard populations, leading to localized extinctions.
“This health check of the world’s species shows that while some species continue to decline, it’s not a losing battle. 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, from ZSL’s Indicators and Assessments Unit .
An assessment of all 248 lobster species has been completed, with 35% being classified as Data Deficient, including the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus). This species shows decreasing populations as a result of over-exploitation, but unfortunately very little else is known about it. An estimated 1.2 billion people worldwide rely on marine species for food and livelihoods, so obtaining reliable information on catch levels is essential.
“The IUCN Red List acts as a gateway to such efforts, by providing decision makers with a goldmine of information not only on the current status of the species, but also on existing threats and the conservation actions required,” says Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.