Red List Shows Extinction Crisis

The International Union for Conservation of Nature releases their 2008 Red List of Threatened Species as a call to action for imperiled species.

In case the spiraling credit crisis isn’t depressing enough, there is more bad news as this week kicks off. On Monday, International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, released its annual Red List of Threatened Species at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona. The new study shows that at about one in four of the nearly 5,500 mammals across the globe are threatened with extinction.

And the news is grim for birds, too.

The Red List has 23 bird species that have seen a drop in their conservation status in the past year. The spoon-billed sandpiper, Floreana mockingbird, Tristan albatross, reunion cuckooshrike, Mariana crow, and akekee are all listed as critically endangered? just one classification away from extinct.

Birdlife International, a partner of IUCN, reported last month that one in eight birds are under threat of extinction. It’s not just rare birds, either: Birdlife found 20 common North American birds have seen their numbers slashed by more than half in the past 40 years. Now, think back—are there birds you’re seeing less of in your area? Take a look at the IUCN list, and maybe you’ll know why.

But the news isn’t all bad. The Marquesan imperial-pigeon, which numbers about 200 in French Polynesia, made the jump from “critically endangered” to just “endangered,” on the IUCN list. Its population numbers are growing thanks to successful campaigns to stop illegal hunting.

The little spotted kiwi, the smallest and most endangered of New Zealand’s kiwi species, made even more progress moving from "vulnerable" to "near-threatened" because of the success of sanctuaries.

The World Conservation Congress will be hosting more than 8,000 people from governments, NGOs, business and the UN together all week long. Guests will attend events to figure out how to protect biodiversity, combat climate change and how to implement sound environmental management. Hopefully the result will be a roadmap forward so more species follow the little spotted kiwi’s path to recovery.

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