Published on Monday, October 6, 2008 by Reuters
One In Four Mammals Risks Extinction
BARCELONA, Spain - A quarter of the world's mammals are threatened with extinction, an international survey showed on Monday, and the destruction of habitats and hunting are the major causes.
The Caspian Seal (Pusa caspica) moved from vulnerable to endangered. Its population has declined by 90% in the last 100 years due to unsustainable hunting and habitat degradation and is still decreasingPhotograph: Simon Goodman/IUCN
The report , the most comprehensive to date by 1,700 researchers, showed populations of half of all 5,487 species of mammals were in decline. Mammals range in size from blue whales to
"Mammals are declining faster than we thought -- one in four species is threatened with extinction worldwide," Jan Schipper, who led the team, told Reuters of the report issued in
He said threats were worst for land mammals in
Click here  to see additional photos.
Of the 4,651 mammals for which scientists have data, 1,139 species were under threat of extinction. Schipper said the data was far broader than the previous review of mammals in 1996.
Threats to species including the Tasmanian Devil, an Australian marsupial, the Caspian seal or the fishing cat, found in
"Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions," said Julia Marton-Lefevre, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the Red List and is meeting in Spain.
Of the 2008 total, 188 were listed as "critically endangered," the worst category before extinction, including the Iberian lynx of which there are just 84-143 adults left.
Habitat loss and hunting -- for everything from food to medicines -- "are by far the main threats to mammals," Schipper and his team wrote in the journal Science. "The population of one in two is declining," they said.
Among other threats, global warming blamed by the U.N. Climate Panel on human use of fossil fuels, was hitting species dependent on Arctic sea ice such as the polar bear.
But the report, issued during an Oct 5-14 IUCN congress, was not all gloom. Five percent of species were recovering because of conservation efforts, including the European bison and the black-footed ferret, found in
The African elephant was also moved down one notch of risk, to "near threatened" from "vulnerable," because of rising populations in southern and eastern
And a total of 349 species have been found since 1992, such as the elephant shrew in
The report focused on mammals but the situation for some other types of animals and plants is even worse, according to the IUCN, comprising governments and conservation organizations.
An updated "Red List" said that 16,928 species, or 38 percent, were threatened out of a total of 44,838. Among animals most at risk are amphibians, such as frogs and toads.
Schipper said governments urgently needed to work out ways to protect life on earth. "Conservation action backed by research is a clear priority," he said.
Editing by Janet Lawrence
© 2008 Reuters
Donations can be sent to the
"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs