2007 Red List: 16,306 Species Threatened with Extinction

The situation for endangered species just keeps getting worse. The 2007 Red List of Threatened Species, released today by the World Conservation Union (or IUCN), says that 16,306 of the 41,415 it tracks are now threatened with extinction, 188 species more than in last year's list. According to the IUCN, "one in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world's assessed plants" are at risk. Ouch.

Among the new Red List's bad news:

  • Western gorillas have been downgraded to critically endangered, following a 60% population decline over the last quarter-century
  • 10 species of coral have been added to the list for the first time, two of which have been listed as critically endangered, one of which is listed as "critically endangered (possibly extinct)"
  • The Yangtze River Dolphin is now listed as "critically endangered (possibly extinct)"
  • The population of the Gharial crocodile, native to India and Nepal, declined to just 182 in 2006, and the species is now listed as critically endangered
  • Five species of vulture have been reclassified, some to vulnerable, one to critically endangered
  • Exploitation by the aquarium industry has taken the Banggai Cardinalfish to endangered status
  • 65 species are now only found in captivity or in cultivation

Ready for the good news? A whopping one species was better off this year than last: the Mauritius Echo Parakeet was upgraded from critically endangered to just plain old endangered. Lucky birds.

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The news on the increase in the number of species on IUCN's Red List saddens me, perhaps the report on the Yangtze River Dolphin most of all. In the 1980's, dolphin keepers at Chicago Zoological Park in Brookfield, IL, where I worked, welcomed a keeper from China who was one of a team attempting to herd the marine mammals into a bow in the Yangtze to keep them safe from increased river traffic. Zoo keepers went to China as well in the effort.

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