News: News Archives
Science: Survey Reveals Threats to the World's Mammals
The survival of one in four of the world's land mammal species and one in three marine mammal species is at risk, according to a major new survey. On land, the primary dangers are habitat loss and hunting, while in the oceans, pollution and the indirect effects of fishing do the most damage, the researchers found.
An international research team led by Jan Schipper of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Conservation International has compiled data for the world's 5487 mammalian species and now presents an assessment of these animals' conservation status and distribution around the world.
Among those with "disproportionately high incidence of threatened or extinct species," the report says, are bears, hippos, wild pigs and hogs, and golden moles.
The research will be published in the 10 October issue of Science, but is being released Monday 6 October to coincide with related events at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona.
Schipper was to brief reporters Monday in Barcelona at a news conference related to the Science paper, "The Status of the World's Land and Marine Mammals: Diversity, Threat and Knowledge."
"No one has analyzed all the mammals on land and sea together before," said Schipper, of the IUCN Species Programme in Gland, Switzerland. "This is the first time we can show the complete distribution of all mammals and their threats around the world."
"Sound science is a cornerstone of effective conservation policy in the 21st century, as is the public availability of the data on which it is based," said Andrew Sugden, international managing editor of Science International. "The new database and its scientific conclusions will be a crucial resource and reliable reference point for conservationists and policymakers alike." [Sugden was supposed to appear at the news conference, but was unable to do so because of illness.]
The new assessment, which includes marine mammals and many other species for the first time, is a collaborative effort, by over 1700 experts in 130 countries, to collect detailed information on species' taxonomy, distribution, habitats, ecology, threats, human use, population trends and conservation measures.
The results show that marine mammals and the land mammals of South and Southeast Asia are facing a particularly bleak future. For example, 79% of primate species in this region are threatened with extinction.
The mammals most prone to decline are those with small ranges in areas being lost to agricultural and timber expansion, as well as large-bodied mammals that are targeted as food in already altered habitats, the researchers say.
The study also demonstrates the accelerating risk of extinction to mammals, as 76 species have gone extinct since 1500, and another 29 are currently classified as "Critically Endangered Possibly Extinct."
6 October 2008