About 30% Of Animal, Plant Species At Risk Of Extinction, Says IUCN Red List

Thirty-one species were declared extinct in the latest Red List — but it's not all bad news. Several species, including the European bison, have been recovering.

A staggering percentage of the world’s plant and animal species are at risk of extinction, according to the latest IUCN Red List, an inventory of threatened species maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The Red List, which was updated Thursday, lists more than 35,700 species — representing almost 30% of all plant and animal species evaluated by the IUCN — as currently threatened with extinction. These include all of the world’s freshwater dolphins, almost one-third of all oak trees and 40% of all amphibians.

At least 31 species have also been declared extinct, according to the latest Red List. These include several freshwater fish species endemic to Lake Lanao in the Philippines, which, according to the IUCN, were killed off in part by overfishing and the introduction of predatory species to the lake. Three Central American frog species have also been declared extinct, the organization said.

“The growing list of extinct species is a stark reminder that conservation efforts must urgently expand,” Bruno Oberle, IUCN’s director-general, said in a statement. “To tackle global threats such as unsustainable fisheries, land clearing for agriculture, and invasive species, conservation needs to happen around the world and be incorporated into all sectors of the economy.”

Oberle noted that the latest Red List ― though painting a grim picture overall ― offers strong evidence of the efficacy of conservation.

The populations of at least 26 species, including the European bison, have shown marked recovery in recent years thanks to conservation efforts ― leading the Red List to upgrade the outlook for these species.

In the case of the European bison, the Red List has reclassified Europe’s largest land mammal as “near threatened” from its previous designation of “vulnerable,” which had indicated the bison was at risk of extinction.

The species numbered just 1,800 in the wild in 2003, but thanks to long-term conservation management, there are now about 6,200 European bison in the wild, the IUCN said.

“The conservation successes in today’s Red List update provide living proof that the world can set, and meet, ambitious biodiversity targets,” Jane Smart, global director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group, said in a statement. “They further highlight the need for real, measurable commitments as we formulate and implement the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.”

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