Brussels, 25 Nov 2004
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has revealed the extent of the extinction threat facing thousands of animals and plants in its latest Red List.
The environmental network, which can call on the expertise of around 10,000 scientists worldwide, claims that 15,589 species are now in danger of extinction.
Scientists have known for many years that around an eighth of birds and a quarter of all mammals are under threat, but the latest list highlights the perilous situation of amphibians. Around 50 per cent of turtles and tortoises are on the verge of extinction, while 21 per cent of amphibians in total are critically endangered or endangered. The figure for mammals and birds is ten per cent and five per cent respectively.
The IUCN claims that the threat to global biodiversity is escalating, and that much of this is down to human activity. Over-exploitation and habitat loss put pressure on several species, while competition from introduced animals and plants is a threat to others. Climate change is also causing problems for several species.
Some 844 extinctions have been recorded since AD 1500, and scientists believe that the current extinction rate may be between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the natural rate. Of 129 recorded bird extinctions, 103 have occurred since 1800.