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Number of Threatened Species Tops 12,000




DOMINIC WORMELL
It's the list animals are dying, literally, to get on. Every year the so-called Red List, published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN), catalogues species threatened by extinction and the latest iteration features more than 12,000 entries. Of particular note this year are the indications that native flora and fauna of islands--from Hawaii to the Galapagos--are being put in jeopardy by invasive species.

In total, 12,259 species--characterized as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable--had the misfortune of making the list. What is more, 762 plant and animal species are recorded as already having gone extinct and 58 remain in existence only in cultivation or captivity. "While we are still only scratching the surface in assessing all known species, we are confident this figure is an indicator of what is happening to global biological diversity," says IUCN director general Achim Steiner.

Islands often harbor species found nowhere else, many of which have made their way onto the updated Red List. Some 85 plants endemic to Hawaii are threatened, according to the report; and the Newcomb snail, which lives solely on the island of Kauai, is now considered vulnerable. Meanwhile, more than 30 snail species that call the Galapagos islands home are also at risk. "The Red List tells us that human activities are leading to a swathe of extinctions that could make these islands ecologically and aesthetically barren," Steiner remarks.


Some larger animals that have fared worse over the past year include three species of Neotropical primates: the Mexican black howler monkey is now considered endangered, with 56 percent of its natural habitat lost already; the variegated spider monkey of Colombia and Venezuela moved up to critically endangered; and under threats from urban growth, agriculture and cattle grazing, the pied tamarin (see image) is also now critically endangered. Marine animals that are at risk include all 21 species of albatross, 57 species of shark and the Mediterraneon short-beaked common dolphin.

The number of threatened species is increasing, in part, because the number of known species that scientists know about has also gone up. A botanical survey of Ecuador led to the assessment of 1,164 new plant species, more than 800 of which are in danger. "Above all, the Red List is a wake-up call to all of us," notes IUCN program officer Craig Hilton-Taylor. "By working together we can help conserve what remains of the earth's biodiversity.

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