According to the latest edition of the Red List Of Threatened Species, compiled by the World Conservation Union, a total of 5,453 animal species are in danger of being wiped out forever, and 5,714 plant species. 41 of them are found in the United Kingdom.
Who or what is in the greatest danger
There are four categories for threatened species: Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and Near-Threatened. Several species have been added this year to the Critically Endangered list ("considered to be facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild"), including:
|The Iberian Lynx: Critically Endangered|
Equally, with only 4% of the world's described plants evaluated, the true number of threatened plants is much higher than current figures. Two Mexican cactus species have just been declared Extinct in the Wild.
Isn't there any good news
Well if you're a Bavarian pine vole fancier, there is: better than winning the World Cup. No examples of the tiny rodent had been seen since a new hospital destroyed their one surviving habitat in 1962; in the last two years a small population have been discovered over the border in Austria and the vole has been removed from the Extinct list.
Likewise the Lord Howe Island stick insect has been found - after a gap of 80 years - on a nearby rocky outcrop. There are only 50 individuals, but that's better than nothing. (And if that means changing it's name from the Lord Howe Island stick insect to the Balls Pyramid stick insect, I'm sure the insect itself won't mind).
Perhaps the best sign overall is that the Red List is getting lots of publicity, and the World Conservation Union is getting it's message through to the people that count.
Tell me more about the World Conservation Union.
Founded in 1948, the World Conservation Union (confusingly known as the IUCN) is a partnership between states, government agencies and non-governmental organizations across the globe - over 980 members in some 140 countries. The IUCN acts to reduce the threat of extinction and consequent massive loss in biodiversity, working to ensure that responsibility for species survival and the balance of ecosystems is shared, understood and acted upon.
And when it ends badly
As well as assessing those species threatened with extinction, the Red List also records all species that have become extinct in the last 500 years. Latest entries are four Australian frogs whose disappearance is thought to be linked to global warning.
But despite mankind's worst efforts, that list is only 811-strong, which might surprise some people. Let's hope there are no new names when the Red List is published again next year.