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Conservation Successes Eclipsed by Species Declines

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2015 (IPS) - Although strong gains have been made in some areas of conservation, many species are facing increasing threats to their survival.

According to an update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species, conservation successes like the Iberian Lynx and the Guadalupe Fur Seal have been overshadowed by more species declines and concerns over the lion, African Golden Cat, New Zealand Sea Lion populations.

“(The update) confirms that effective conservation can yield outstanding results,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General, in a statement. “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. 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.”

Aside from successful conservation efforts in southern Africa, the West African lion 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 Red List provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on plants, fungi and animals; cataloguing and highlighting those plants and animals that are facing a higher risk of global extinction.

It includes 77,340 assessed species, providing a useful snapshot of what is happening to species today and highlighting the urgent need for conservation action. Of the assessed species, 22,784 are threatened with extinction.

According to the update, 99 percent of tropical Asian slipper orchids – some of the most highly prized ornamental plants – are threatened with extinction.

Eighty-five percent of species on the Red List are threatened by the loss and degradation of their habitat, and illegal trade and invasive species are also key drivers of population decline.

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

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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