IUCN Spotlight: pandas and pangolins
Good news for the giant panda, which was upgraded from endangered to vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of Endangered Species. Bad news for the Eastern gorilla, the world's largest living primate, which was reclassified as critically endangered.
The IUCN Red List was updated earlier this week at the World Conservation Congress being held in Honolulu from Sept. 1 to 10. It now includes 82,954 species, of which 23,928 are threatened with extinction.
Four out of six great ape species, including the eastern gorilla, are now critically endangered, which is one step away from going extinct.
The Eastern gorilla's population has declined more than 70 percent in 20 years to fewer than 5,000 due to illegal hunting. The other critically endangered great apes include the western gorilla, Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan.
"To see the Eastern gorilla — one of our closest cousins — slide towards extinction is truly distressing," said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general in an press release. "We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating. Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet."
> Giant Panda, from endangered to vulnerable. The panda population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation efforts by the Chinese government. Climate change, however, is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the panda's bamboo habitat in the next 80 years.
> Tibetan Antelope, from endangered to near threatened. Rigorous protection of these antelopes, which were commercially poached for their underfur, or shahtoosh, used to make shawls, has helped the population grow back to 100,000 to 150,000. The population of these antelopes was once about one million, but declined to 65,000 to 72,500 in the 1980s and early 1990s.
> Bridled Nailtail Wallaby, from endangered to vulnerable. Endemic to Australia, this once common species declined due to the impacts of invasive species and habitat loss. They are now on the road to recovery, thanks to a successful translocation conservation program establishing new populations within protected areas.
>> Plains Zebra, moved from least concern to near threatened. The population has gone down by 24 percent over the past 14 years to just over 500,000 animals. They are threatened by hunting, especially when they move out of protected areas.
>> Koala, moved from least concern to vulnerable. Koalas, formerly common throughout eucalyptus forests of Australia, are threatened by habitat destruction, bush fires and disease. The population has declined about 30 percent over the past three generations (18-24 years) and is expected to decline further due to climate change over the next 20 to 30 years.
>Psychedelic Rock Gecko, entered the list as endangered. This species, which is only known to live on two small, offshore islands in southern Vietnam is endangered due to illegal collection for the commercial pet trade.
Among the 85 motions adopted by the IUCN's members on Wednesday following an inaugural electronic vote, are a ban on gill net fishing, which threatens the vaquita porpoise, which is listed as critically endangered, as well as restrictions on the trade of pangolins, which range from vulnerable to critically endangered in Asia and Africa. All eight species are protected under national and international laws, but increasingly victims of wildlife crime for their meat and scales.