What’s the point?

50 years and still counting

mouse lemur

Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur, the world’s smallest primate, is classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. This year’s update reports that 94% of lemurs are now threatened with extinction.
(Photo © Russell A. Mittermeier)

The world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species – the IUCN Red List – has turned 50!

The Red List has proved to be a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation. It provides information on population size and trends, geographic range and habitat needs of species. It has now assessed 73,686 assessed species, of which 22,103 are threatened with extinction.

Sadly, every update catalogues the increasingly parlous state of the world’s biodiversity and woefully inadequate efforts made by governments to address the situation. The 2014 update, for example, finds that almost 80% of temperate slipper orchids and over 90% of lemurs are threatened with extinction. The newly assessed Japanese eel has been listed as Endangered, while the Brazilian three-banded Armadillo – the mascot of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – remains Vulnerable as its population continues to decline.

As Jane Smart, Director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme puts it: “there is a long way to go between where we are now and 2020, the deadline set by nearly 200 governments to halt biodiversity loss and prevent species extinctions.”


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