Endangered Species News

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 


Biodiversity is declining. Currently there are more than 79,800 species on The IUCN Red List, and more than 23,000 are threatened with extinction, including 41% of amphibians, 34% of conifers, 33% of reef building corals, 25% of mammals and 13% of birds.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Established in 1964, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species.

It is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive.  It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions. 

The IUCN Red List is used by government agencies, wildlife departments, conservation-related non-governmental organizations (NGOs), natural resource planners, educational organizations, students, and the business community.  The IUCN Red List is produced by the Red List Partnership: BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Conservation International; International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); NatureServe; Microsoft; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Sapienza University of Rome; IUCN Species Survival Commission; Texas A&M University; Wildscreen; and Zoological Society of London.

To date, many species groups including mammals, amphibians, birds, reef building corals and conifers have been comprehensively assessed. As well as assessing newly recognized species, the IUCN Red List also re-assesses the status of some existing species, sometimes with positive stories to tell.  For example, good news such as the downlisting (i.e. improvement) of a number of species on the IUCN Red List categories scale, due to conservation efforts.   The bad news, however, is that biodiversity is declining. Currently there are more than 79,800 species on The IUCN Red List, and more than 23,000 are threatened with extinction, including 41% of amphibians, 34% of conifers, 33% of reef building corals, 25% of mammals and 13% of birds.

Despite these figures, we are working to reverse, or at least halt, the decline in biodiversity. Increased assessments will help to build The IUCN Red List into a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’. To do this we need to increase the number of species assessed to at least 160,000 by 2020.  This will improve the global taxonomic coverage and thus provide a stronger base to enable better conservation and policy decisions.  The IUCN Red List is crucial not only for helping to identify those species needing targeted recovery efforts, but also for focusing the conservation agenda by identifying the key sites and habitats that need to be saved. At its core, The IUCN Red List helps to set future conservation and funding priorities.

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Treehugger:  Sustainability with Sass


Critically Endangered Turtle Species

Jaymi Heimbuch (@JaymiHeimbuch)
Science / Natural Sciences

May 23, 2013


May 23rd is World Turtle Day. It is a day of celebrating the many unique and ancient species of turtles and tortoises around the world, and bringing awareness to their need for protection. Of the 207 species of turtle and tortoise alive today, 129 of them are listed by IUCN as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.  That's an incredibly 62% of species!

The species listed here are only a few of the many critically endangered turtle and tortoise species. They illustrate that though these species wear a suit of armor, they are incredible fragile and in need of protection by humans, from humans.

Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
Eretmochelys imbricata
This sea turtle species faces a range of threats, including over-exploitation of eggs at nesting beaches, habitat loss and degradation, the taking of juveniles and adults in foraging areas, and being caught as bycatch by fisheries.

USFWS/Southeast/Public Domain
Dermochelys coriacea
This is the largest of all living turtle species, and is the fourth largest modern reptile -- only three species of crocodilians beat it for size. Rather than a bony shell, it has a covering of skin and oily flesh, which is part of how it gets its common name. Found in oceans all over the world, this wide-ranging turtle species is often caught as bycatch by fisheries. That and ingestion of plastics like balloons and plastic bags that look like jellyfish are the largest threats to the species. 


Snowmanradio/CC BY 2.0
Astrochelys radiata
Radiated Tortoise
This tortoise is native to, and most abundant in southern Madagascar. The threats to the species include loss of habitat, being poached for food, and being over exploited in the pet trade. If left on their own in healthy habitat, they can live well over 100 years old (the oldest known member of the species lived to 188!).

OpenCage/CC BY-SA 2.0
Batagur borneoensis
Painted Terrapin, or the Saw-jawed Terrapin
The species is found in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. Between 1986 and 1996 it moved from "vulnerable" to "critically endangered". 


As we mentioned before, these are only a few of the many critically endangered turtle and tortoise species worldwide. It is clear why there is a World Turtle Day -- they need help! Really, could you look at that baby bog turtle pictured above (yes, critically endangered) and not want to help?? There are many beautiful, important and interesting species; to learn more about how to protect them check out some of these organizations:

Sea Turtle Conservancy
Turtle Conservation Project
Asian Turtle Conservation Network
Conservation International
Turtle Conservation Fund
Turtle Conservancy



WDC, Whale and Dolphin Conservation


We have destroyed some 80% of the biomass of whales and dolphins in the world's oceans and rivers. Let's not be the cause of any more such losses, - let us be the generation where we changed things for the better.



Whilst all whales and dolphins are threatened by mankind's activities to a greater or lesser degree, some are more endangered than others.


In the last few years we have likely lost a species, the baiji (Chinese river dolphin), while others are hanging on by the slimmest of margins. The North Atlantic right whale may have been reduced to less than 450 individuals. The New Zealand Maui dolphin may now number less than 55 individuals and yet they are still dying in fishing nets. In the Pacific Ocean, the western gray whale is down to fewer than 130 individuals (although the eastern gray whale is doing well), with oil exploration a major issue in its habitat. Some species of porpoise are also under threat, with the vaquita, found only in the Gulf of California in Mexico, numbering less than 100 individuals. River dolphins in Asia (South Asian river dolphin) and South America (Amazon River dolphin) are also under enormous pressure as human activity encroaches on many of their key habitats.



The dictionary definition is 'a species whose numbers are so small that the species is at risk of extinction.'

This definition can apply to any animal species, but with highly social and widely distributed creatures such as whales and dolphins we should perhaps also consider endangered populations. The loss of any one distinct population of whale or dolphin may have dramatic long-term effects on what remains of the species.

It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of whales and dolphins are dying annually in fishing nets worldwide with few countries successfully addressing this issue. In the United States, the Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits “takes” of marine mammals and the Act includes specific processes to assess fishery bycatch and mitigation. Unfortunately, the US metric of Potential Biological Removals’ (PBR), a model developed to identify populations who are significantly impacted by humans as a means to prioritize actions to reduce impacts, has been taken out of context by some countries.  Sadly, we are concerned that the UK and potentially the whole of Europe may be attempting to use a similar mathematical approach as way to measure ‘sustainable removal rates’, i.e. how many whales and dolphins can be killed without harming the population. WDC does not support the isolated use of PBR or an similar approach as a means to consider any injuries or deaths of whales and dolphins as sustainable. We have provided more details to EU Member States on what efforts are required to reduce bycatch towards zero, including through implementation of an EU Action Plan for cetacean bycatch reduction, through both ASCOBANS and ACCOBAMS



Most conservation efforts have sought to limit individual threats to cetaceans, but the chance of long term success are hard to quantify for such long-lived species. Indeed, some of the most successful attempts in whale conservation in the last thirty years have been where we have ‘simply left’ populations and species alone. The 1982 International Whaling Commission (IWC) moratorium, despite the best (or should we say, worst) efforts of the commercial whaling interests, has meant that some populations of certain species are, far from the reach of mankind, slowly stabilizing and some even starting to recover - see the eastern population of gray whales noted above. The USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that southern hemisphere humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) may have recovered from previous whaling to some 25,000 individuals. However, it should be noted that the pre-whaling population was estimated to be some 100,000 individuals, so the concept of ‘recovery’ is of course relative.

Contrast this with the efforts of the New Zealand Government and the protection of the Maui dolphin. New Zealand has one of the best records internationally in the field of cetacean conservation, but the Maui dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori maui), a sub-species of the Hector’s, or New Zealand dolphin, is now believed to number less than 55 individuals. Accidental entanglement in gill nets, and trawl fisheries, is the biggest threat to the New Zealand Dolphin and where cause of death is known, over 60% are attributed to bycatch.


Species that find themselves in so-called ‘developing countries’ such as the baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), (which is/was found only in China), face even harder struggles. Indeed, as recently as 2007 the baiji has been described as ‘functionally extinct’, most likely due to unsustainable by-catch in local fisheries. This represents the first global extinction of a large vertebrate for over 50 years, only the fourth disappearance of an entire mammal family since AD 1500. The other river and freshwater dolphins face similar threats and potentially a similar fate unless we do something to help them and soon. For example a small population of Irrawaddy dolphins in the inner Malampaya Sound, Philippines, classified as “Critically Endangered” in the IUCN Red List, is currently threatened by bycatch in the local crab net/trap fishery.

The Critically Endangered western gray whale population is threatened by oil and gas development in its feeding ground on the Sakhalin shelf (Russian Federation). This population has likely fewer than 130 of the critically endangered whales left – including possibly only 26 breeding females.

We have destroyed some 80% of the biomass of whales and dolphins in the world's oceans and rivers. Let's not be the cause of any more such losses, - let us be the generation where we changed things for the better.






Fabulous Frogs

The World’s Most Endangered Frogs

June 17, 2014 | Eric R. Olson | @ericrolson


Frogs and other amphibians are under pressure. Nearly one-third of the world’s amphibians are threatened or extinct, according to a report from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Habitat loss is perhaps the biggest contributor to these declines. The spread of a fungus called chytrid (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) has also taken a toll, leading to the catastrophic decline or extinction of at least 200 species. At our request, the amphibian specialists at the IUCN put together a list of five frogs that face the greatest risk of extinction. You can catch a glimpse of one of these rare animals, the Titicaca Water Frog, in the upcoming Nature episode Fabulous Frogs.

Macaya Breast-spot Frog/Robin Moore

Macaya Breast-spot Frog
Status: Critically-Endangered

One of the smallest frogs in the world, the Macaya breast-spot frog (Eleutherodactylus thorectes) is only found on the Formon and Macaya peaks in southwestern Haiti. The species is expected to decline by 80 percent over the next ten years as a result of habitat destruction. Slash and burn agriculture and the logging of trees for charcoal are driving this loss of habitat.

Kihansi Spray Toad/Julie Larsen Maher-Wildlife Conservation Society

Kihansi Spray Toad
Status: Extinct in the Wild

As its name suggests, the Kihansi Spray Toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis) was once found in the spray of the Kihansi Falls in Tanzania. It is now considered extinct in the wild. A hydroelectric dam built upstream of the falls is blamed for this decline. The dam cut off 90 percent of the original water flow, reducing the volume of spray around the falls and altering the vegetation.

Island Forest Frog/Cameron Siler

Island Forest Frog
Status: Critically-Endangered

The Island Forest Frog (Platymantis insulatus) is a native of the South Gigante Island in the central Philippines and inhabits the island’s limestone forests and caves. Like a number of frogs, it has no distinct tadpole phase; the larva develops inside an egg until it emerges as a baby frog. The main threat to this species is human encroachment due to guano (bat manure) mining and the quarrying of limestone.


Golden Mantella/Robin Moore

Golden Mantella
Status: Critically-Endangered

The brightly-colored Golden Mantella (Mantella aurantiaca) lives in the rainforests of central-east Madagascar. Females lay their eggs on the forest floor and the tadpoles that emerge are swept into swamps, temporary ponds and flooded forests. The frog’s main threats are habitat loss due to agriculture and logging, but experts also worry about over-collection due to its popularity amongst frog enthusiasts.


Titicaca Water Frog/Alberto Munoz

Titicaca Waterfrog
Status: Critically-Endangered

True to its name, the Titicaca Water Frog (Telmatobius culeus) inhabits Lake Titicaca high in the Andes mountain range on the border of Bolivia and Peru. The frog’s unusual appearance is due to folds of extra skin that help it absorb oxygen in a high-elevation, low-oxygen environment. The species has declined by 80 percent in the last three generations due to over-harvesting, the introduction of invasive species and environmental pollution.



IUCN Redlist – Amphibians http://www.iucnredlist.org/initiatives/amphibians/analysis
Amphibia Web – An Overview of Chytridiomycosis http://www.amphibiaweb.org/chytrid/chytridiomycosis.html
Encyclopedia of Life – Frogs and Toads http://eol.org/pages/1553/overview
Arkive – Amphibians http://www.arkive.org/amphibians/