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One in six Mediterranean mammals in trouble

Iberian LynxThe latest regional update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species finds bad news for mammals living around the Mediterranean. One in six species in the area are now threatened with extinction, according to the IUCN report, "The Status and Distribution of Mediterranean Mammals,"—the first major assessment of mammals in this region. More than 250 experts contributed to the study.

Of the 320 mammals assessed in the report, the IUCN now classifies in its Red List categories 3 percent as Critically Endangered, 5 percent as Endangered and 8 percent as Vulnerable to extinction. Of the 49 threatened species, 20 (41 percent) are unique to the region.

In addition, the IUCN found that 8 percent of Mediterranean mammals are Near Threatened, and 3 percent are Extinct or regionally Extinct.

Habitat loss and degradation are the reasons that 90 percent of these species have become endangered or threatened. "We need international action to protect key areas and preserve natural habitats to ensure we don't lose the rich biodiversity in this area," said IUCN's Annabelle Cuttelod, co-author of the report, in a prepared statement. Other threats include hunting and invasive species.

According to the IUCN, large herbivores, such as deer, and carnivores as well as rabbits and hares are particularly threatened. Eight species from these groups have already gone extinct in the Mediterranean region, including the Mesopotamian fallow deer (Dama mesopotamica) and the common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius).

Small mammals such as rodents, bats, shrews, hedgehogs and moles—which the IUCN says make up the majority of Mediterranean mammals—are all on the decline thanks to pollution, urbanization, climate change and habitat loss due to agriculture.

How does all of this compare with other species in the Mediterranean? According to previous IUCN studies, 56 percent of Mediterranean endemic freshwater fishes, 56 percent of dolphins and whales, 42 percent of sharks and rays, 36 percent of crabs and crayfish, 29 percent of amphibians, 19 percent of dragonflies and damselflies, 13 percent of reptiles, and 5 percent of birds are considered to be threatened.

For purposes of this report, the Mediterranean region was defined to include Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, occupied Palestinian Territories, Portugal (including Madeira), the Republic of Macedonia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary Islands), Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey and Western Sahara.



Image: The Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), one of the critically endangered species found in the Mediterranean region. Via Wikipedia

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