The so-called Holocene Extinction is well and truly underway with countless species large and small facing the risk of going extinct in coming years and decades as a result of human activities.
Just how many species are being threatened is a question hotly debated. Now scientists working for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have put a number on it: over 28,000 species worldwide are facing the risk of extinction in the wild.
In a new assessment for its Red List of Threatened Species the group’s scientists have examined the prospects of 105,732 species on land and in water to see how well or badly they will likely fare in coming years owing to habitat loss, climate change, poaching and other manmade factors.
They then ranked them on a scale from “least concern” over their conservation status to “critically endangered” to already “extinct.” They have also added more than 7,000 species from around the planet to the IUCN’s Red List in the latest update.
The researchers have found that more than a quarter of species examined (28,338 species in all) fall into a category that indicates they are at grave risk of going extinct. Any species going extinct in coming years will be joining the ranks of the 873 species that are known to have died out already over the past 500 years.
If this sounds bad enough, consider this: only a small fraction of the species living around the planet have been assessed. As much as 99% of plants and fungi have not yet been done so, for instance.
“Two species in particular may be very close to extinction. The clown wedgefish (Rhynchobatus cooki) from the Indo-Malay Archipelago has been seen only once in over 20 years – when a local researcher photographed a dead specimen in a Singapore fish market,” explain Peter Kyne, of Charles Darwin University in Australia, and Caroline Pollock, program officer for the IUCN’s Red List Unit.
“The false shark ray (Rhynchorhina mauritaniensis) is known from only one location in Mauritania in West Africa, and there have been no recent sightings,” the experts add. “It’s likely increased fishing has taken a serious toll; the number of small fishing boats in Mauritania has risen from 125 in 1950 to nearly 4,000 in 2005.”
There are several iconic species among those critically endangered, including mountain gorillas, Malayan tigers, Sumatran rhinos, pangolins and vaquitas.
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