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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Published 6th October 2008

Over-harvesting a key threat according to new IUCN Red List

Barcelona, Spain, 6th October 2008--The new IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was unveiled today at the World Conservation Congress currently underway in Barcelona. A record 44,838 species have been assessed, of which 16,928 (38%) are threatened with extinction. 


In the Red List update, African Elephants have been downlisted from Vulnerable to Near Threatened <em>&copy; Martin Harvey / WWF-Canon  </em>

The new assessment finds 1,141 mammal species, more than 1 in 5 of all mammals, is threatened with extinction. Over harvesting is a key threat, wiping out larger mammals, especially in Southeast Asia, but also in parts of Africa and South America. Species like the Caspian Seal Pusa caspica move from Vulnerable to Endangered. Its population has declined by 90 percent in the last 100 years due to unsustainable hunting and habitat degradation and is still decreasing. 

However, conservation can bring species back from the brink of extinction, with five percent of currently threatened mammals showing signs of recovery in the wild. They include the African Elephant Loxodonta africana, which moves from Vulnerable to Near Threatened, largely a reflection of the recent and ongoing population increases in southern and eastern Africa. The status of the species varies considerably across its range. 

New groups of species appear in the Red List for the first time, including Indian tarantulas, highly prized by collectors and threatened by the international pet trade.

All 161 grouper species have been assessed for the first time too, of which 20 are threatened with extinction, including the Squaretail Coral Grouper Plectropomus areolatus which is eaten as a luxury food and is typically fished unsustainably at its spawning aggregations. 

Assessment of reptiles finds that species like the Cuban Crocodile Crocodylus rhombifer has moved from Endangered to Critical, because of population declines caused by illicit hunting for its meat. 

“The new IUCN Red List highlights the urgent conservation priority of tackling the illegal and unsustainable trade that is driving some wildlife species towards extinction,” said Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC. 

According to Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General: “Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live.”