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 status of the Yangtze River dolphin has been upgraded to 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.”
Dr Jonathan Baillie, Dr Ben Collen and Dr Sam Turvey, ZSL scientists and key Red List contributors, Dr Andrew Cunningham ZSL Reader and Dr Noelle Kumpel, ZSL Conservation Programme Manager, are available for interview.Due to location, Dr Alex Rogers, ZSL scientist and key Red List contributor, has limited availability for comment by phone.In all cases, please contact:Alice Henchley, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 07889 043843
Notes to editors:
The Institute of Zoology (IoZ) is the research division of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). It is a government-funded research institute specialising in scientific issues relevant to the conservation of animal species and their habitats.
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: our key role is the conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL owns and operates ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research at the Institute of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 40 countries worldwide. www.zsl.org
The IUCN Red List is a joint effort between IUCN, its Species Survival Commission and partners Zoological Society of London, BirdLife International, Conservation International and NatureServe.
There are two subspecies of Western Gorilla, the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) and the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli).
The Western Lowland Gorilla has now been classified as Critically Endangered, as their population has declined by more than 60% over the last 20-25 years, with about one third of the total population found in protected areas killed by the Ebola virus over the last 15 years . The main causes of decline are the Ebola virus and commercial hunting. The Western Lowland Gorilla is found in Angola , Cameroon, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo (possibly extinct), Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. ZSL’s gorilla conservation project at Mikongo Conservation Centre in Lopé National Park, Gabon, aims to conserve western lowland gorillas through a combination of ecotourism development, habitat protection, wildlife monitoring, education and awareness raising and capacity building.
Corals are marine animals that live in colonies and form reefs, host to many thousands of species and the most diverse of all the marine ecosystems. Consequently, the extinction of corals would potentially lead to the additional loss of huge numbers of other sea species.
The Yangtze River dolphin or baiji (Lipotes vexillifer) was the only living member of the Lipotidae, an ancient mammal family thought to have separated from other cetaceans (marine mammals including whales, dolphins and porpoises) 20-40 million years ago. The baiji was a white freshwater dolphin with a very long, narrow beak and low dorsal fin. It tended to live in groups of three or four and feeds on freshwater fish.
ZSL manages the Vulture Recovery Programme, a DEFRA Darwin Initiative funded scheme in partnership with the Bombay Natural History Society and the RSPB, in India. Three of the most common vulture species (the slender-billed, oriental white-backed and long-billed vultures) have declined dramatically as a result of secondary poisoning by diclofenac, a drug used to treat cattle whose carcasses the vultures regularly feed on. The vultures breed slowly, so the captive breeding programmes that have been set up are vital to ensure that there will be a viable population for the future. Additionally, lobbying by the partnership has resulted in a complete ban in the use of the drug in India by the Indian Government, and ZSL has provided key veterinary staff to treat injured and sick vultures and to train local veterinary staff.