If you’ve ever wondered about the status of a threatened species, either plant or animal, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is an amazing resource to refer to as a starting point for your research.
IUCN – The World Conservation Union, has been assessing the conservation status of various species for over 40 years and comprehensive summaries of the recent status of a particular species can be found on their site. Added to that, the Red list allows you to easily find further information, including photographs, through some fantastic integration with other services such as Google Images. It’s an ideal research tool for school students.
It was rather sobering going through some of the listings and seeing animals listed as endangered that were still quite plentiful when I was growing up.
The search engine is quite powerful, even the basic search allows you to query their database by endangerment level, region, assessment dates, habitat types and threat types from a single page. The advanced search page is perhaps more suited to scientific researchers.
Some quick (sad) facts:
– There are currently 3071 species listed as critically endangered
– An added 4482 species are classified as endangered
– A further 8565 species are listed as vulnerable
– The number of mammal species classified as endangered has increased 10% in the last 10 years
– The number of bird species listed as endangered has increased by nearly 50% in the last decade
Probably one of the scariest statistics relates to amphibians. Amphibians are a “coal mine canary” indicator of the health of an ecosystem. For example, a wetland devoid of frogs is a very bad sign and the demise of other species of animals dependent on the wetlands usually folllows.
In 2004, the number of amphibians described as threatened was 1,770. In 2006, it stands at 1,811.
A recent addition to the list is the Polar Bear. It’s estimated they will sustain a population reduction of 30% over the next 45 years; mostly due to global climate change – the ice they depend on is rapidly disappearing which is reducing their habitat and bringing them into closer proximity to man.
Visit the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species