Extinctions predicted for fish, red panda

Habitat loss, pollution, overfishing and lack of protections are responsible for declining populations of several species.

The Conservation Law Foundation this week filed a suit to protect the Atlantic wolffish as an endagnered species in New England. The ugly fish's numbers have dropped 95% in the last 24 years. The species lives on the ocean floor, which in the New England region has been devastated by deep-sea trawling by commercial fishing operations.

Pollution, meanwhile, is driving some African fish to extinction, but not in the way you might think. Cichlids in Lake Victoria not being poisoned, they're being blinded. This causes females, which normally are only attracted to the specificly colored fish of their own species, to interbreed with related species. There are around 1,300 cichlid species in the world, but this interbreeding could wipe out some of them.

We hear a lot about the panda's plights, but what about the red panda? According to a report from the WWF, habitat loss and lack of awareness are taking their toll on red panda populations. The animals are often killed by cattle farmers. There are now just 314 red pandas in Nepal, with an estmated worlwide population less then 2,500.

Not all news about nearly extinct species is bad. In the Philippines, the buffalo-like tamaraw has seen annual population growths of 10% every year this decade. There are still only 263 tamaraws -- down from 10,000 early last century, but a slight bit higher than the 175 that existed in 2001. The tamaraw lives on a single Philippine island; it lost most of its numbers when human settlement brought diseases and reduced the species' range.

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