Red List: 1 in 4 Mammal Species Face Extinction Risk

World Wildlife Fund on Oct. 6 said that governments must double their efforts to save endangered species, as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List revealed that one in four of the world's 5,487 known mammal species was at risk of extinction.

Species such as tree kangaroos, narwhals, and Irrawaddy dolphins are now closer to extinction, say WWF scientists who helped compile the list and work around the world to save endangered species and habitats.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was compiled by 1,800 experts from 130 countries and ranks species according to their population status and threat levels. It shows the effects that habitat loss and degradation, over-exploitation, pollutants, and climate change are having on the world's species.

"The math is simple: Threats are increasing and species populations are decreasing," said Sybille Klenzendorf, managing director of World Wildlife Fund's Species Program. "Unless we address these threats immediately the Red List will only get longer."

The Irrawaddy dolphin went from data deficient to vulnerable on the new list, confirming that the dolphin, found in Southeast Asia, is facing serious threats from bycatch in fisheries, dam development, deforestation, and mining. One population in the Philippines has a total of only 77 individuals.

The narwhal, which is famous for its long ivory tusk, went from data deficient to near threatened. Narwhals spend their lives in the arctic waters bordering Russia, North America, and Greenland and are threatened by hunting, trade, habitat loss, and toxics and pollution that accumulate in the Arctic, which affect the health and reproduction of these whales.

Fourteen tree kangaroo species are on the Red List, with their status ranging from threatened to critically endangered, which highlights the fact that the species are in an overall decline due to deforestation of their ranges in Australia and New Guinea, as well as hunting.

But not all species are "in the red," with African elephants going from being listed as vulnerable to near threatened because their populations in eastern and southern Africa are better off today than in the past when poaching for ivory was out of control.

"We are encouraged to see that the African savannah elephant is benefiting from effective conservation programs and ivory trade controls in eastern and southern Africa," Klenzendorf said. "Forest elephants however are still dangerously low and seriously threatened, meaning governments, range states, and conservationists need to remain diligent in their efforts to protect them."

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