GLAND, Switzerland, June 24, 2015 (ENS) – The Iberian Lynx and the Guadalupe Fur Seal are recovering, but the Lion, the African Golden Cat and the New Zealand Sea Lion are facing increasing threats to their survival, finds the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Released Tuesday by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the update shows that conservation efforts can be effective in recovering wildlife species, but overall, more and more species are disappearing.


Slipper orchid Purple Paphiopedilum (Photo by VanLap Hoang courtesy IUCN)

Many medicinal plants are vanishing due to over-collection and habitat destruction, and 99 percent of tropical Asian slipper orchids, highly prized ornamental plants, are threatened with extinction, the IUCN reports.

The IUCN Red List now includes 77,340 assessed species, of which 22,784 are threatened with extinction.

The loss and degradation of habitat are the main threat to 85 percent of all species described on the IUCN Red List, with illegal trade and invasive species close behind.

“This IUCN Red List update confirms that effective conservation can yield outstanding results,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “Saving the Iberian Lynx from the brink of extinction while securing the livelihoods of local communities is a perfect example.”

“But this update is also a wake-up call, reminding us that our natural world is becoming increasingly vulnerable,” she warned. “The international community must urgently step up conservation efforts if we want to secure this fascinating diversity of life that sustains, inspires and amazes us every day.”

Following 60 years of decline, the world’s most endangered feline species, the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), has increased from 52 mature individuals in 2002 to 156 animals in 2012. Found in Spain and Portugal, the species has now moved from the Critically Endangered to Endangered category on the IUCN Red List.


Iberian Lynx (Photo by A.Rivas courtesy IUCN)

Intensive conservation action, including the restoration of rabbits, the lynx’s main prey species, are credited with the recovery. Also important were monitoring for illegal trapping, conservation breeding, reintroduction programs and compensation for landowners who made their properties attractive to lynx.

“This is fantastic news for the Iberian Lynx, and excellent proof that conservation action really works,” says Urs Breitenmoser, co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Cat Specialist Group. “However, the job is far from finished and we must continue our conservation efforts to secure future range expansion and population growth of the species.”

The Guadalupe Fur Seal (Arctocephalus townsendi), which was twice thought to be Extinct due to hunting in the late 1800s and 1920s, has now improved in status from the Near Threatened category to Least Concern due to habitat protection and the enforcement of laws such as the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.


Guadalupe Fur Seals (Photo by Casandra Galvez courtesy IUCN)

The species’ population rebounded from some 200 to 500 individuals in the 1950s to around 20,000 in 2010.

Prior to exploitation for its dense, luxurious underfur, the Guadalupe Fur Seal was likely the most abundant seal species on the islands of southern California, with a population estimate of 200,000.

But other mammals are facing increased threats from hunting and habitat loss.

Despite successful conservation action in southern Africa, the Lion (Panthera leo) remains listed as Vulnerable at a global level due to declines in other regions. The West African subpopulation has been listed as Critically Endangered due to habitat conversion, a decline in prey caused by unsustainable hunting, and human-lion conflict.

Rapid declines have also been recorded in East Africa – historically a stronghold for lions – mainly due to human-lion conflict and prey decline. Trade in bones and other body parts for traditional medicine, both within the region and in Asia, has been identified as a new, emerging threat to the species.

The reclusive African Golden Cat (Caracal aurata) has moved from Near Threatened to Vulnerable due to population decline.

The New Zealand Sea Lion (Phocarctos hookeri) – one of the rarest sea lions in the world – has moved from Vulnerable to Endangered, mainly due to disease, habitat modification caused by fishing, and accidental death as a result of bycatch. The species has never recovered from the severe population depletion which occurred due to commercial hunting early in the 19th century.

Forty-four Indian species of medicinal plant have been added to the IUCN Red List in this update. All are threatened with extinction, mainly due to over-collection and habitat loss.

Aconitum chasmanthum, a highly toxic plant endemic to the Himalayan region of India and Pakistan, is listed as Critically Endangered due to unsustainable collection of tubers and roots, as well as habitat loss from avalanches and the construction of high-altitude roads. The roots and tubers, which contain alkaloids, are used in Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine and are collected in huge quantities.

Two species of crab, Karstama balicum and Karstama emdi, have been listed as Critically Endangered as their only known habitat – Bali’s Giri Putri Cave – is threatened by increasing tourism and religious ceremonies carried out in the cave. Studies of the crabs are being carried out in order to identify appropriate conservation strategies.


Peppermint Goby (Photo by Laszlo Ilyes courtesy IUCN)

Of the 143 species of goby assessed in the Caribbean region, 19 are threatened with extinction mainly due to a 59 percent decline in coral reef habitat between 1979 and 2011, and the invasive Lionfish (Pterois volitans).

Gobies are one of the largest families of marine fish. They comprise more than 2,000 species, including some of the smallest vertebrates in the world, such as the Critically Endangered Dwarf Pygmy Goby (Pandaka pygmaea), which is only 1 to 1.5 centimeters long.

“It is encouraging to see several species improve in status due to conservation action,” says Jane Smart, director, IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “However, this update shows that we are still seeing devastating losses in species populations.”

“The IUCN Red List is the voice of biodiversity telling us where we need to focus our attention most urgently,” said Smart. “This voice is clearly telling us that we must act now to develop stronger policy and on-the-ground conservation programs to protect species and halt their declines.”

(Total threatened species =22,784)
Extinct = 830
Extinct in the Wild = 69
Critically Endangered = 4,735
Endangered = 7,124
Vulnerable = 10,925
Near Threatened = 5,130
Lower Risk/conservation dependent = 238 (this is an old category that is gradually being phased out of The IUCN Red List) Least Concern = 35,514
Data Deficient = 12,775

The IUCN Red List threat categories are:

Extinct or Extinct in the Wild
Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;
Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;
Least Concern: species evaluated with a lower risk of extinction;
Data Deficient: no assessment because of insufficient data.
Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): This is not a new Red List category, but is a flag developed to identify those Critically Endangered species that are in all probability already Extinct but for which confirmation is required.

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