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Study: Nearly 21,000 species facing extinction

The amur leopard has been critically endangered since 1996. There are approximately 30 in existance today. Courtesy: Colin Hines/Wikimedia Commons

The amur leopard has been critically endangered since 1996. There are approximately 30 in existance today. Courtesy: Colin Hines/Wikimedia Commons


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Friday, July 5, 2013, 2:36 PM -

The latest update from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) paints a dismal future for biodiversity, with nearly 21,000 species facing extinction -- 4,807 species more than the previous year.

Some of the world's oldest organisms -- including freshwater shrimp, cone snails and the Yangtze finless porpoise -- have seen dramatic population declines.

A significant number of trees have found their way onto the list, with as many as 34% of the world’s cedars, cypresses, firs and other cone-bearing plants threatened with extinction, a 4% increase.

The revised list also includes a significant number of freshwater shrimp -- approximately 28% are facing extinction -- and three species that have officially been declared extinct: the Cape Verde Giant Skink lizard, the Santa Cruz pupfish and the freshwater shrimp Macrobrachium leptodactylus.

Jane Smart, Global Director of the IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group, called the findings "alarming". 

"We must use this knowledge to its fullest – making our conservation efforts well targeted and efficient - if we are serious about stopping the extinction crisis that continues to threaten all life on Earth,” she said in a statement.

The cause for species decline is not universal, but climate change, human activity and disease often exacerbate the problem.

"This latest Red List update is further evidence of our impact on the world's threatened biodiversity," said Richard Edwards, an IUCN collaborator, in a statement.

"Further evidence that extinction is real, and that we must all act, and act now, if we are to prevent this most tragic reality for many more of the world's species."

IUCN Red List - by the numbers

  • Total species assessed: 70,294
  • Total threatened species: 20,934
  • Extinct: 799
  • Extinct in the Wild: 61
  • Critically Endangered: 4,227
  • Endangered: 6,243
  • Vulnerable: 10,464
  • Near Threatened: 4,742
  • Lower Risk/conservation dependent: 241
  • Least Concern: 31,846
  • Data Deficient: 11,671

Data courtesy of the IUCN 

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