Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Updated 'Red List' includes 15,000 plants and animals
More than 15,000 species are in danger of going extinct, with large numbers of amphibians and some types of plants in special danger, according to an update of the IUCN-World Conservation Union's Red List of endangered species released yesterday.
Of known species, 15 have become extinct over the last 20 years, but it is thought that more have died out without being documented by scientists. Recent extinctions include the St. Helena olive tree, the golden toad of Costa Rice, the Hawaiian thrush and the Hawaiian crow (Colin Blackstock, London Guardian). Since accurate data on species first started in the 1500s, 784 species have been declared extinct (Reuters). Of an estimated 10 to 30 million species of plants and animals in the world today, only between 1.6 million and 1.9 million have been cataloged (Mark Henderson, London Times).
The number of extinctions in recent years is above "background" levels expected during the course of normal events. Experts blame the extinctions and the ongoing threats affecting many species on habitat loss, invasive species and global climate change (BBC News online).
"Extinctions taking place for climactic change reasons and new emerging diseases are warnings of much more dangerous things happening in the biosphere which will affect us and the productive economic systems we all live off," said Simon Stuart, IUCN science adviser on biodiversity assessment (Sebastien Berger, London Telegraph).