The 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is today being released, updating global understanding of the conservation status of the world’s plants and animals. There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List and the number of species threatened with extinction has risen by 188 since last year.
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is one of the key partners that works with IUCN to produce the Red List. ZSL’s Institute of Zoology was a key contributor in the development of the categories and criteria of the Red List and regularly plays a critical role in the production of the Global Species Assessments, the main documents that summarize the Red List findings.
Dr Jonathan Baillie, ZSL Research Fellow and Red List contributor, commented, “The growing number of species on the Red List is only beginning to reveal the true magnitude of the impact human activities are having on the world’s species. Although the recent upsurge of interest in conservation is encouraging, it is clear that unless far greater steps are taken to preserve our flora and fauna, species loss will only intensify.”
Key findings in the 2007 IUCN Red List include:
- The Western Gorilla is now classified as Critically Endangered (previously Endangered), as a result of both the bushmeat trade and spread of the Ebola virus. Dr Noelle Kumpel, ZSL’s Bushmeat and Forests Conservation Programme Manager, commented, “Both ebola and the bushmeat trade pose enormous threats to the survival of the Western Gorilla. The Ebola virus is silently sweeping through isolated gorilla populations, causing mass fatalities, and improved access for humans into the gorillas’ ranges is leading to significantly increased rates of bushmeat hunting. The Zoological Society of London is working to conserve gorillas in a number of areas by promoting ecotourism, preventing hunting and encouraging the sustainable management of wildlife in timber concessions.”
- Corals have been added to the Red List for the first time, following assessment work by Global Marine Species Assessment (GMSA), including Dr Alex Rogers, ZSL Senior Research Fellow and Marine Invertebrate Red List Authority (MIRLA). Dr Rogers commented, “Corals are the most threatened group of species in the world and recognition of this in the 2007 IUCN Red List is an essential first step in the efforts to protect them. Climate change is the main cause of coral declines, so the new listing provides a dramatic indicator of the significance of the current climate crisis.”
- The Yangtze River dolphin has been classified as Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct). Dr Sam Turvey, ZSL Research Fellow and expert on the species, commented, “The Red List now reflects the opinion of the scientists involved in the final, desperate searches for the Yangtze River dolphin. The Zoological Society of London’s EDGE programme now intends to undertake further survey work to attempt to find out more about the causes of the species’ decline.”
- The Red-headed Vulture (Sarcogyps clavus) has been reclassified as Critically Endangered (previously Near Threatened) and the Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus) as Endangered (previously Least Concern). Dr Andrew Cunningham, ZSL Reader, commented, “The decline in vulture numbers has been astonishingly rapid. We have identified the cause of declines in other vulture species as poisoning by the drug diclofenac and are now calling for research to confirm whether this is the case for these two newly reclassified species.”