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Celebrating 50 Years of The IUCN Red List

30 January 2014

Throughout 2014 we are celebrating the significant contribution of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in guiding conservation action and policy decisions over the past 50 years. The IUCN Red list is an invaluable conservation resource, a health check for our planet – a Barometer of Life.

The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species and their links to livelihoods. Far more than a list of species and their status, the IUCN Red List is a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. It provides information on population size and trends, geographic range and habitat needs of species.

Many species groups including mammals, amphibians, birds, reef building corals and conifers have been comprehensively assessed. However, there is much more to be done and increased investment is needed urgently to build The IUCN Red List into a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’. To do this we need to increase the number of species assessed from the current count of 71,576 to at least 160,000 by 2020, improving the taxonomic coverage and thus providing a stronger base to enable better conservation and policy decisions.

Join us in celebrating the contribution that The IUCN Red List has made in guiding conservation for 50 years – spread the word, get involved, follow our news   @amazingspecies



News Releases

Online IUCN Red List Course now in French and Spanish

08 April 2014
Online IUCN Red List training course now available in Spanish and French.

Since the first module was released in June 2013, the online IUCN Red List training course Assessing Species Extinction Risk Using IUCN Red List Methodology has grown to include seven modules, over 20 lessons, and a final course exam. The course now provides around 12 hours of free online training. In addition, French and Spanish versions have now been released making this course available for the first time in all three official IUCN languages and allowing a wider range of users around the world to benefit from this training.

The online IUCN Red List training course is the result of a highly successful collaboration between IUCN and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) with the purpose of bringing free IUCN Red List training to a global community of Red List Assessors and conservation practitioners. The course is hosted on TNC’s ConservationTraining web site alongside an increasing list of free conservation-themed courses.

Within the seven course modules you can learn:

  • What IUCN Red List assessments tell us;
  • The meanings of the terms used in the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria;
  • How to use the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria to assess extinction risk at both global and national levels;
  • The IUCN standards in place for Red List assessment accounts and creating distribution maps for taxa being assessed for The IUCN Red List;
  • Why The IUCN Red List and national red lists are important conservation tools and how they should be used.

In addition translated versions of the course, it also now includes an exam containing 25 questions designed to test your knowledge of the IUCN Red List, the assessment process and your skills in calculating the various parameters used when carrying out Red List assessments. Although primarily intended to be the final exam for the online course, this can also be used as a stand-alone test for experienced red listers to check their knowledge and refresh themselves on topics they may no longer be familiar with.

So, whether you are a novice Red List Assessor, an experienced red lister or you just want to find out more about The IUCN Red List, visit the online IUCN Red List training course where you can learn, test and refresh your IUCN Red List skills.

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Australian Alps in better health thanks to volunteers

07 April 2014
Volunteers learning how to identify Hawkweed species at a newly-discovered infestation
Photo: Rod McQueen

Involving volunteers in environmental projects is a great way to tackle environmental issues as well as offering people the chance to experience the physical and mental health benefits of connecting with nature.

Volunteers are helping to eradicate one of the country’s worst weeds from the Alpine National Park in Victoria, Australia.

Hawkweed is an extremely invasive member of the daisy family that has already caused major environmental damage in North America, Japan and New Zealand.

An eradication programme to remove three species discovered in the national park involves State Government organisations, a ski resort, universities, research organisations and volunteers.

Over five weeks last summer, 59 volunteers made a significant contribution, discovering 15 Hawkweed infestations across 73 hectares of vast and rugged alpine landscape.

The search involved approximately a thousand hours of surveillance over rough terrain and often in challenging weather conditions,” said Keith Primrose, Operations Manager for the Hawkweed Eradication Programme with Parks Victoria.

We had an amazing season with a fabulous bunch of volunteers and we can’t thank them enough for their time and hard work. Without the dedication of these volunteers this programme has significantly less chance of success,” said Keith.

Samantha Strong, one of the volunteers last summer, said the experience was a fantastic one and definitely something she’d do again.

"It was not only really satisfying to know I was making a difference on an important environmental issue, but the surroundings were stunning – it was good for the mind, body and soul being out there in the Alps,” said Samantha.

Falls Creek Resort Management supplied accommodation for the volunteers free of charge. This meant they stayed on the mountain for the surveillance work and enjoyed their free time in the beautiful alpine landscape, making their volunteer experience a mix of work and leisure.

Planning is already underway for next year’s season and recruitment starts later this year.

The experience of projects such as this one will be shared during the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, taking place in Sydney in November.

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Manatee hunters turned fish-keepers

07 April 2014
Lucy Diagne measures a West African Manatee
Photo: Tomas Diagne

The West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) is the least studied mammal in Africa despite having a range larger than the United States: encompassing 21 African countries. At the same time, it faces serious threats from hunting and accidental capture in fishing nets.

This lack of knowledge about the species raises concern for its future, given what we know about the impact of key threats to the survival of the West African Manatee, according to project leader Lucy Diagne. This SOS-funded project is however, tipping the balance in favour of these gentle, mysterious creatures. By kick-starting conservation action across three African countries which comprise part of their vast range to provide tailor-made solutions for the manatees in three very different contexts. Implemented by Sea2Shore Alliance, the project is creating solutions in Senegal, Mali and Nigeria. In this installment, Diagne focuses on the Nigerian context.

Using aquaculture as an incentive

Attendees manatee education program Ise community Nigeria Photo: Lucy DiagneIn Nigeria, a unique scheme for alternative livelihoods was proposed to stop manatee hunting. Manatee hunters were incentivized to give up hunting and to remove manatee traps in the Lekki Lagoon, near to Lagos. In return, they were offered training and equipment to take up catfish aquaculture.

Changing the attitudes of manatee hunters was not easy. In the early days of the project, the hunters who had originally agreed to participate wanted to take up the Slow moving and gentle: Manatees represent relatively easy prey Photo: Lucy Diagneaquaculture training without giving up manatee hunting. The project leader Bolaji Abimbola had to reassert the value of manatee conservation and the benefit of having a stable, year round income from aquaculture.

His efforts were aided by the Senegal project leader Tomas Diagne, Lucy’s husband, who visited the Lekki Lagoon. Tomas spoke with the villagers about his 20 years working with the local people at Tocc Tocc Reserve in northern Senegal Catfish from fish cages ready to sell in the Ise community Nigeria Photo: Tomas Diagneto bring them the benefits of alternative livelihoods that conserved manatees. But understanding the nuances of community dynamics helped seal the deal. Bojali observed that while the men might tend the fish cages it was the women who prepared them for market, gutting them and smoking them. And so the project expanded to include this activity. Soon the village community became much more invested in the project, agreeing to remove manatee traps and give up hunting to learn aquaculture skills. 

Labelling manatee trap for removal in the Ise Community Nigeria Photo: Tomas DiagneEquipping them for a new livelihood, Bojali ensured the hunters were trained in cage construction, catfish breeding and culturing. The range of tasks was broad: the hunters constructed cages from PVC pipes and other supplies, learned how to determine the sex of catfish, practiced injecting the fish in preparation for breeding, mastered stripping eggs off fish and fertilizing them, as well as how to prepare adult fish for market. Meanwhile, removal of manatee traps commenced and installation of additional cages stocked with catfish fingerlings also began. Fishermen working with fish cage Ise community Nigeria Photo: Tomas DiagneThe investment in the community is beginning to pay off according to Lucy. Nine manatee traps were removed in Lekki Lagoon in 2013, which will directly lead to greater conservation of manatees in this region. Additionally, three other communities have expressed interest in adopting the aquaculture training scheme for their villages in return for stopping manatee hunting. So, the good example from these new livelihood opportunities is spreading to neighbouring villages.

Fish cages Ise Nigeria Photo: Tomas Diagne“We hope this project can be used as an example for other places in Africa to show that alternative livelihoods to manatee hunting are achievable,” says Lucy .

As global human populations soar toward 9 billion by 2050, the world is increasingly looking to Africa as a breadbasket. With its own population expected to double to 2 billion by 2050, there is further pressure and good reason for African economies to improve agricultural resilience and self-reliance. The challenges are many and the scale of the task is immense. Projects like Sea2Shore’s approach in Nigeria may represent drops in the ocean of the food security challenge but they also represent examples of holistic thinking and practical solutions to help reduce the conflict between man and nature along the way.

Primarily, this multinational SOS funded project is the first step in drumming up research and conservation interest for the much-neglected West African Manatee. But crucially, these initiatives in Nigeria as well as Senegal and Mali have the potential to serve as a model for several other manatee sites in the region. This would in turn help develop a concerted conservation strategy for the species across its entire range in West Africa. And that it empowers people with new livelihood options along the way is just what might seal the deal for gathering widespread support.


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Better and better

07 April 2014
Schisandra fruit

An award-winning project involving the sustainable collection of a medicinal plant by village cooperatives in protected panda habitat in central China is bringing benefits for people, wildlife and business alike.

The fruits of Southern Schisandra, a woody vine, are used in various medicinal and food products such as herbal teas, tinctures, medicated wine, jams and dietary supplements.

In China, as in many other countries, over-harvesting of wild medicinal plant species is a serious conservation concern. Aside from problems caused by the harvesting itself, collectors can also have serious secondary impacts through camping in reserves, hunting and gathering fuel-wood to dry commercial quantities of medicinal plants. Such habitat destruction and disturbance also threatens endangered wildlife, including the Giant Panda.

The collection of medicinal plants in the Upper Yangtze is rising as households compensate for the loss of income from farming and timber harvesting caused by policies that ban logging and discourage farming on steep slopes.

To help alleviate the problem, a joint initiative was developed and implemented in 2007-2011 by IUCN, WWF and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, as part of the EU-China Biodiversity Programme. This led to local producer association members, harvesters and governmental officials being trained in organic wild crop harvesting practices and certification procedures, as well as piloting application of the FairWild Standard.

“This initiative has shown how sustainable harvesting of wild plant resources creates positive benefits for local livelihoods and conservation efforts,” says Anastasiya Timoshyna, TRAFFIC’s Medicinal Plant Programme Leader.

Income for local producers in the project areas has increased, thanks to higher prices paid for certified, sustainably-harvested medicinal and aromatic plants. In the case of Schisandra berries, international and local buyers paid at least 30% above normal market prices for certified produce. A survey of project sites in March 2011 found incomes from medicinal plant collection had risen, thanks to the price premium for certified ingredients; in one village by almost 18% over 2007 levels.

The project also led to the creation of links between producer associations and buyer groups. Two communities have signed purchase agreements with a local winery and the newly-established Shuijing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Cooperative has signed a five-year fair trade agreement with a Californian company for the supply of sustainably-harvested Schisandra fruits.

The project, supported through the Kangmei Institute of Community Development and Marketing has seen further adoption of sustainable harvesting methods in the region and communities working through international partnerships to promote a ‘giant panda friendly’ brand and to create panda-friendly certification standards for local harvesters.

TRAFFIC has begun follow-up work in China focusing on greening supply chains in the Traditional Chinese Medicine sector. Through a project supported by the EU-China Environmental Governance Programme, TRAFFIC and partners will support industries in Zhejiang and Hunan provinces to demonstrate social responsibility by implementing the FairWild principles for sustainable and fair trade in wild-harvested medicinal plant species with their suppliers.

Beyond the experience in China, the FairWild Standard is serving as a best-practice framework for sustainable harvesting and equitable trade in wild plants from various countries around the world. Such trade is supporting sustainable use in and around protected areas including the South Xuan Lac Species and Habitat Conservation Area in Bac Kan Province, northern Viet Nam, for harvesting several medicinal plant species and with the Waorani community in Yasuni National Park in Ecuador for harvesting Chambira palm leaves.

TRAFFIC and IUCN’s Medicinal Plant Specialist Group are contributing to a series of publications by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Health Organisation on health and biodiversity which will be launched at the CBD conference and the World Parks Congress later this year.


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New IUCN App for marine invasive species in Mediterranean marine protected areas

03 April 2014
Medmis banner
Photo: IUCN-Med

The IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation has released today a new app for smart phones, and an online tool to help managers of marine protected areas (MPAs) control the spread of invasive species in the Mediterranean Sea. The presentation took place during the workshop on Climate Change and Marine Protected Areas held in Cadaqués (Spain), organised by the Network of Marine Protected Area Managers in the Mediterranean (MedPAN) and the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas of the Barcelona Convention (UNEP/MAP RAC/SPA) in collaboration with the Generalitat of Catalunya, the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, and with the support of the Rhone-Mediterranean and Corsica Water Agency and the MAVA Foundation.

The new application aims to facilitate the identification of marine invasive species in Mediterranean marine protected areas so that monitoring and control programmes can be put in place before they damage native marine species. Further improvements to the App will be considered during the marine experts workshop in order to increase its applicability and potentiality for marine protected areas.

In the Mediterranean, one notorious example is the highly invasive algae Caulerpa racemosa or Caulerpa taxifolia, or the poisonous fishes such as the Lagocephalus species.

The app is supported by an online platform which includes an identification guide of the most important invasive species found in the Mediterranean Sea. The data reported by users through the app and the online platform will be verified before display on an online map accessible through the platform. This platform is devoted to all those interested (amateur or professional divers, marine technicians, MPA managers, fishermen or scientists) in receiving information on invasive species in marine protected areas. Information collected will also support conservation efforts through recording the presence of potentially invasive species.

María del Mar Otero, Marine Programme officer at the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation and coordinator of the project, highlights “The objective of this online application is to improve the control of invasive species by asking sea watchers and divers across the Mediterranean to help us find and track them in marine protected areas”.

The online reporting system is based on a recent publication by IUCN in the context of the MedPAN North project, “Monitoring Invasive Species in Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): A strategy and practical guide for managers”, which describes and maps around half a hundred species. IUCN-Med invites divers to identify potentially invasive species in MPAs, and report them through this service. Caulerpa racemosa in Mediterranean waters Photo: Ernesto AzzurroThe data collected will help marine conservation by increasing the chances of stopping their permanent establishment and thus limiting their potential impact.

The Smartphone’s application is free and available in English, French and Spanish. You can download it from:


Other languages:

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Clear win for species in World Heritage sites

02 April 2014
Reptiles and amphibians are winners in Manù National Park, Peru
Photo: ©

If I tell you World Heritage, what do you see? The Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Egypt, Vatican City? World Heritage is often associated with cultural heritage. However, the prestigious World Heritage List contains 193 natural sites, and 29 mixed cultural and natural sites. Wait – did you just think of the Galapagos and Ha Long Bay?

World Heritage has a key role in conserving some of the most irreplaceable and valuable natural habitats where many of the emblematic species inhabiting our planet can thrive. Coati in Tikal National Park, World Heritage Site in Guatemala Photo: Elena Osipova

Out of the 222 sites inscribed on the World Heritage List for their natural importance, 133 – or 60% – have Outstanding Universal Value based on their significance for species conservation, including threatened species.

Natural World Heritage sites also account for half of the land covered by the protected areas identified as most critical to preventing extinctions of mammals, birds and amphibiansGreat Barrier Reef anemone fish Photo: IUCN Photo Library c Giles Winstanley, according to a recent study published in Science journal, which based its findings on the World Database on Protected Areas and The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The study was part of an analysis of terrestrial gaps in the global World Heritage map. It calculates the ‘irreplaceability’ of individual protected areas to quantify their contribution to the long-term survival of species.

The author of the study made the point that, if all 78 sites found Elephants in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania Photo: Alicia Wirzto be “exceptionally irreplaceable” for species conservation were given World Heritage status, their protection would be boosted given the rigorous standards required for World Heritage sites.

The natural sites that are protected under the World Heritage Convention are places that the international community has recognized as significant for all humanity. We – NGOs, governments, the public sphere, you, me – have collectively endorsed shared responsibility to protect World Heritage sites, so that future generations can benefit from them too.

Should we expect the best out of World Heritage sites? Absolutely. Does the best come out of World Heritage sites? Yes and no. Can we do better? Of course, and IUCN World Heritage Programme, the advisory body on nature to the World Heritage Committee, is about to launch a new knowledge product to make it happen.

Expect the best

World Heritage sites offer insight into the way protected areas around the planet are conserved and managed. Experiences, successes and challenges encountered in real-world practice of the World Heritage Convention are illustrations of the realities faced across protected areas.

They are the litmus test for measuring success: if we do not manage to deliver in this segment of globally recognized protected areas, we clearly have failed.

At the same time, these sites have the potential to be the learning laboratories and a source of inspiration for protected areas practitioners. Exposing successful performance opens up the possibility for the transfer of good management practices among sites, and for sharing lessons in the wider protected area community.

Thus there is a clear pathway for World Heritage properties to play a leading role in meeting and resolving the challenges faced by protected areas worldwide.

Today, however, the most reliable way we learn about what goes on in World Heritage sites is through reactive monitoring, which is carried out only in response to problems that have been identified. As a consequence, out of the current 222 natural World Heritage sites, we know that 8% are listed as “in danger” and 25% are affected by serious conservation issues.

The state of conservation of the remaining sites is little known.

Eye on threats

Reactive monitoring is extremely important to keep major threats under the radar and mobilize attention at the international level on the sites that are most affected.

The Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania, for example, is famous for its large elephant population, which is explicitly stated as one of the reasons why the World Heritage Committee inscribed Selous on the World Heritage List in 1982.

At the time, the Selous elephant population was estimated at around 106,300. It suffered a steep decline to just over 22,000 in 1991, but due to effective anti-poaching efforts since 1992 the population recovered to more than 70,400 in 2006.

However, a population survey carried out in 2013 by Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute in collaboration with Frankfurt Zoological Society and others, estimates the current elephant population in the Selous-Mikumi ecosystem at a mere 13,084 – the lowest ever recorded since 1976.

Eye on results

What reactive monitoring seldom brings out is the success achieved on the ground as a result of best practice and effective management. Species do thrive in World Heritage sites. And the contribution of zoological conservation projects in these exceptional areas is part of that achievement.

A recent study prepared jointly by Berkley University’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and two universities of Illinois catalogued 155 amphibians – such as frogs, toads, salamanders and caecilians – and 132 reptiles – such as snakes, lizards, turtles, and caimans – in Manú National Park in Peru, where Frankfurt Zoological Society is also conducting a project.

This site, which was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987, represents only 0.01% of the planet’s land surface; yet 2.2% of all amphibians and 1.5% of all reptiles known worldwide inhabit it. This makes it the top protected area in the world for amphibian and reptile diversity.

There has been a clear win for animal species in World Heritage sites. Their stories need to be told so we can gain 360-degree vision on the effect of the World Heritage Convention on the ground – and clearly demonstrate that high standards and best practice bring real results.

360-degree vision

IUCN World Heritage Programme, together with the World Commission on Protected Areas, is developing strategies and actions to help boost World Heritage performance over the next decade.

A key product that will be launched in Spring 2014 is the new IUCN World Heritage Outlook website, followed by a report planned for the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in November 2014, in Sydney, Australia. It sets out to improve the conservation future of the Earth’s iconic places by tracking the state of conservation for all natural and mixed World Heritage sites.

It will show evidence of best practice and identify the standards that sites need to achieve to remain excellent.

This approach allows us to harness the widely untapped potential of the World Heritage Convention as one of the world’s most important, and most underrated, conservation instruments. Through it, we can raise awareness of World Heritage sites as flagships for innovations in management, responding to major threats and pioneering best practice.

Author: Célia Zwahlen
This article was published in the March 2014 edition of WAZA News.





Bad news for Europe’s bumblebees

02 April 2014
The population of the Endagered Bombus cullumanus has declined by more than 80% over the last decade
Photo: Pierre Rasmont

Twenty four percent of European bumblebee species are threatened with extinction on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, according to a recent study assessing the species group at the European level.

The study examines all of the 68 bumblebee species that occur in Europe. It is part of the Status and Trends of European Pollinators (STEP) project and the European Red List of pollinators, both funded by the European Commission.

Bumblebees, like other pollinators, play a critical role in securing food production. They allow plants to reproduce and improve the production of crops, such as tomatoes, peppers and many other types of fruit, vegetables and seeds that make up our diet. Of the five most important pollinators of European crops, three are bumblebee species. Together with other pollinators, bumblebees contribute more than 22 billion Euros to European agriculture per year.

“We are very concerned with these findings. Such a high proportion of threatened bumblebees can have serious implications for our food production,” says Ana Nieto, European Biodiversity Officer of IUCN and coordinator of the study. “Protecting bumblebee species and habitats, restoring degraded ecosystems and promoting biodiversity-friendly agricultural practices will be essential to reverse the negative trends in European bumblebee populations.”

According to the study, 46% of bumblebee species in Europe have a declining population, 29% are stable and 13% are increasing. Climate change, the intensification of agriculture and changes in agricultural land are the main threats to the species. Other reasons for their decline include pollution from agricultural waste and loss of habitat due to urban development.

“The plight of Europe's bumblebees is a problem that needs to be tackled on all fronts. The European Union recently banned or restricted the use of certain pesticides that are dangerous to bees, and is funding research into status of pollinators,” says Janez Potoċnik, EU Environment Commissioner. “However, efforts clearly need to be scaled up, not least through better mainstreaming of biodiversity into other policies, but also to raise awareness about the benefits that pollinators bring.”

”Many of these species live in very restricted areas and in low numbers,” says Pierre Rasmont, member of the STEP team and the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Bumblebees Specialist Group. “They are often extremely specialized on their host plants, which makes them susceptible to any environmental change.”

Climate change, through increasing temperatures and long periods of drought, is responsible for major changes in bumblebee habitat. Bombus hyperboreus, the second largest bumblebee of Europe, listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, is strictly associated with Arctic and Subarctic regions and only lives in the Scandinavian tundra and in the extreme north of Russia. Climate change is likely to dramatically reduce the area of its habitat, leading to population decline.

Changes in land use and agricultural practices that result in the loss of the species’ natural environment also represent a serious threat to many bumblebees in Europe. The geographic range of the Critically Endangered Bombus cullumanus has shrunk enormously in the last ten years following habitat fragmentation and changes in farming practices which involve removing clovers – its main forage. As a consequence, its population has declined by more than 80% over the last decade. Previously widespread, it now only occurs in a few scattered locations across Europe.

Europe’s largest bumblebee, the Endangered Bombus fragrans, is also seriously threatened by the intensification of agriculture, which is destroying its native habitat in the steppes of Ukraine and Russia.

Europe’s largest bumblebee, the Endangered Bombus fragrans, is seriously threatened by the intensification of agriculture Photo: Göran Holmström“The contribution of bumblebees to food security and the maintenance of wider plant biodiversity is an essential part of Europe’s natural capital,” says Simon Potts, Coordinator of STEP. “However, this capital is under increasing threat and the results of this Red List assessment represent an important tool to help protect an indispensable component of biodiversity.”

Bombus hyperboreus is the second largest bumblebee of Europe Photo: Göran HolmströmMeasures such as increasing the margins and buffer strips around agricultural fields that are rich in flowers and wildlife and the preservation of grasslands are deemed effective tools in alleviating the rapid decline in bumblebee species. They can provide bees with forage and help underpin stable populations of pollinators, whose survival is crucial for European food security.

Changes in land use and agricultural practices that result in the loss of the species’ natural environment represent a serious threat to many bumblebees in Europe Photo: Pierre RasmontThe assessment comes at a time when progress in implementing Europe’s strategy to halt biodiversity loss is under review. It stresses the need for conservation efforts to be stepped up and for the EU 2020 Biodiversity Strategy to be fully implemented in order to meet the 2020 biodiversity target to halt biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems services, set by EU leaders in March 2010.

For more information or to set up interviews please contact:
Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations, t +41 22 999 0346, m +41 79 856 76 26,
Angelika Pullen, IUCN European Union Representative Office, m +32 473 947 966.
Joe Hennon, European Commission, t +32 2 295 35 93


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Kering and IUCN Boa & Python Specialist Group announce first report on captive breeding

31 March 2014
Python skins are traded primarily to meet demands from the fashion industry
Photo: Daniel Natusch / IUCN

The first report under the ‘Python Conservation Partnership’, a collaboration between Kering, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Boa and Python Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, has been presented today.

The “Assessment of Python Breeding Farms Supplying the International High-end Leather Industry” is a study evaluating the economic feasibility and viability of captive breeding of pythons as a possible element of sustainable use and conservation of the species. Its aim is to provide guidance to those involved in the python trade to adopt sustainable practices when sourcing skins.

According to the report, python farming could help reduce pressure on wild python populations in Asia. The practice, however, should be viewed only as part of a holistic approach to python conservation and additional research on python farming and trade is required to determine its conservation benefits and impacts on livelihoods. The report also found that greater emphasis on the conservation of python species in the wild is needed.

“It is encouraging to finally have some concrete information about the feasibility and role of farming pythons for skins, particularly given the previous concerns raised about whether it was possible or not,” said Daniel Natusch, one of the authors of the report and member of the IUCN SSC Boa and Python Specialist Group. “Captive breeding is only part of a possible solution for a sustainable python skin trade. We shouldn’t lose sight of overall conservation goals and the greater potential of wild harvest systems to encourage conservation of wild pythons and their habitats.”

Python skins are also used for traditional Chinese musical instruments. Photo: Daniel Natusch / IUCNKey recommendations from the report include putting in place systems to ensure that python farming is well documented and that any trade is sustainable, legal and does not encourage trafficking from the wild under the guise of farmed animals. The study also highlights the urgent need to develop techniques to differentiate between captive-bred and wild-caught skins. The Python Conservation Partnership is currently addressing this issue by working with Viet Nam to research innovative ways to Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam are the main source of python skins, with China, Thailand and Viet Nam all producing python skins through farming. Photo: Daniel Natusch / IUCNdetermine whether skins are derived from captive-bred or wild sources.

“Our drive and commitment to sustainable business includes going deep into sustainability across our supply chains, right to our sources,” said Marie-Claire Daveu, Chief Sustainability Officer and Head of international institutional affairs of Kering. “This first report and the continued work we are doing in the Python Conservation Within the last 20 years, the scale of trade in python skins has increased significantly with nearly 500,000 skins exported from Southeast Asian countries per year. Photo: Daniel Natusch / IUCNPartnership to enhance traceable, sustainable sourcing and the conservation of pythons will assist our sector and move the industry towards more informed decisions in python sourcing. We will be proactive in addressing these recommendations, and in particular developing best practice guidelines in the PCP for captive breeding farms and training the suppliers we work with."

Python skins are traded primarily to meet demands from Southeast Asia’s pythons, the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) and the Burmese Python (Python molurus bivittatus) are two of the world’s largest snakes. Photo: Daniel Natusch / IUCNthe fashion industry to make luxury leather products, with Italy, Germany and France being the biggest importers. Skins are also used for traditional Chinese musical instruments. Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam are the main source of python skins, with China, Thailand and Viet Nam all producing python skins through farming.

Southeast Asia’s pythons, the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus) and the Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) - which are two of the world’s largest snakes - have been harvested from the wild for their skins for almost eight decades. Within the last 20 years, the scale of trade in python skins has increased significantly with nearly 500,000 skins exported from Southeast Asian countries per year. Continued increase in demand is likely to put significant pressure on wild stocks, according to the study.

“This report offers a possible alternative solution to the sourcing of python skins for which demand is escalating. However, there is still some way to go towards more transparent, better managed python farming,” said Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of IUCN’s Global Species Programme. “We must make sure that attention is not diverted from the urgent need to preserve wild pythons and their habitats through direct site conservation and action against illegal trade.”

The report will be presented at the Animals Committee of the upcoming Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in May 2014 to contribute to the discussion on international snake trade.

"CITES is seeking to improve the legality, sustainability and traceability of international trade in pythons. It has called for further research to help the CITES Animals and Standing Committees determine what guidance should be provided and additional steps taken to ensure the ongoing sustainability and legality of this trade,” said John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). “This effort is bringing the relevant players together across all sectors to find pragmatic and innovative solutions. The “Assessment of Python Breeding Farms Supplying the High-end Leather Industry”, delivered under the Python Conservation Partnership, is making a highly valuable contribution towards this collective undertaking.”

For more information or to set up interviews please contact:

IUCN Ewa Magiera
+41 22 999 0346
+41 79 856 76 26

Kering International Mich Ahern
+44 (0) 7984 684 454

Kering France Emmanuelle Picard-Deyme
+ 33 (0)1 45 64 61 87

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World’s Rarest Gorilla Gets New Roadmap for Survival

24 March 2014
Cross River Gorilla
Photo: Nicky Lankester

In spite of the continued threats of poaching and habitat destruction, future prospects for the world’s rarest gorilla have improved but are still dependent on continued local and international partnerships, according to a new action plan published by the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group and the Wildlife Conservation Society, and produced in partnership with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the North Carolina Zoo, and others.

A new report—titled Revised Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla: 2014-2019—cites a number of conservation achievements over the past several years, including the expansion of protected areas for the threatened great apes as well as an improved understanding of available gorilla range (more than twice the area previously determined). The report also recommends measures designed to help Cross River gorillas increase their numbers within and beyond core sites, and emphasizes the importance of local and international support for the success of conservation efforts.

“The outlook for the Cross River gorilla is encouraging, provided we build on past successes and continue with key partnerships to protect this great ape and its remaining habitat,” said Andrew Dunn, WCS conservationist and lead author of the report. “The new action plan provides a detailed roadmap for conserving the world’s rarest gorilla.”

Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla ssp. diehli) numbers fewer than 300 individuals throughout its range, which is limited to a mountainous border region between Nigeria and Cameroon. The Cross River gorilla is the rarest of the four subspecies of gorilla.

The first action plan for Cross River gorillas—published in 2007—initiated the first coordinated conservation strategy using the Cross River gorilla as a “flagship” species as a means of protecting a region considered by many to be one of Africa’s biodiversity “hotspots.” Implementation of the action plan achieved many of its objectives, including the establishment of two new protected areas in Cameroon—Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary and Takamanda National Park. The plan has also achieved significant gains through: increased community involvement in gorilla conservation in both Cameroon and Nigeria; improvements in wildlife laws and enforcement, particularly in the border region; more public awareness; and greater support from international agencies such as the Convention on Migratory Species and the Great Ape Survival Partnership.

Revision of the plan was initiated in 2012, when 42 experts from seven countries (including government wildlife authorities) met in Limbe, Cameroon to identify the challenges that remain. Specifically, the small size of the entire Cross River gorilla population puts the long-term survival of the subspecies at risk from poaching or a disease outbreak. The potential expansion of human settlements into Nigeria’s Cross River National Park and Cameroon’s Takamanda National Park is another threat, as is potential forest loss due to agricultural development between core sites.

The revised plan calls for: enhanced protection of the gorillas and enforcement of wildlife laws; continued research into the distribution and biology of Cross River gorillas; further implementation of community-based conservation models; new measures to protect vital corridors between gorilla sites; support for improved management of conservation areas; health monitoring and disease prevention; development of ecotourism; support for transboundary conservation; and expanding public awareness of conservation.

“While we have come a long way in ensuring the future survival of the Cross River gorilla, there is still a lot of work to do,” emphasized Dr. Richard Bergl of the North Carolina Zoo, one of the plan’s co-authors. “In particular, we need to explore new ways to conserve key habitat areas that currently have no formal protection.”

Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla ssp. diehli) Photo: WCSDirck Byler, Africa Program Officer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, added: “Many of the gorilla populations still lie outside protected areas and national parks and will probably never be included in national parks. And so by working with local communities to curtail hunting and provide alternatives to hunting in many of these places, we think we can get a handle on stabilizing the population and even increasing it.”


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Assessing countries’ true land restoration potential now possible, says IUCN

21 March 2014
A map of potential restoration areas in Guatemala
Photo: Government of Guatemala

The largest landscape restoration initiative in history gained further momentum today - the International Day of Forests - as IUCN and other partners provide the world’s nations with new guidance on assessing their national restoration potential.

Published in the form of a handbook, the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) will help countries understand how much of their land offers restoration opportunities, map where those opportunities are and determine which degraded landscapes offer the most value to society.

“It’s time to move from aspiration to action,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director-General of IUCN. “We know that there are over two billion hectares of deforested or degraded lands around the world where opportunities for restoration may be found. But before restoration can begin, clear decisions must be made about where the priority landscapes are, what the best mix of restoration interventions will be, and who will bear the costs – and reap the many gains – of long-term restoration and stewardship. The ROAM methodology helps countries answer these questions.”

ROAM, produced by IUCN and others, notably WRI, also offers a tangible first step for countries interested in committing to the global ‘Bonn Challenge’ goal to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. With several countries already having made pledges totaling 20 million hectares, the Bonn Challenge represents the largest restoration movement the world has ever seen.

After Restoration, Ansai, Shaanxi, Loess Plateau, China 2009. Photo: John Liu“It is possible to restore the world’s degraded lands – with a multitude of local-to-global benefits for people and the planet,” says Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of Nature Based Solutions, IUCN. “Countries hoping to join the global restoration movement can now apply a new, flexible method that is based on real experience from national assessments undertaken in Ghana, Guatemala, Mexico and Rwanda. The guide we are publishing today is intended as a ‘road-test’, and we are excited to hear back from countries that will pioneer its implementation, so that we can improve and refine ROAM going forward.”

Restoring landscapes at a national scale delivers multiple benefits to biodiversity and to the economy and helps countries meet global targets in the fight against climate change. With many new Bonn Challenge pledges already in the pipeline, more than a dozen countries are planning restoration opportunity assessments, and are looking to the ROAM methodology to guide them through the process.

The ‘road test’ edition of the guide to the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM), is published today with the title “Assessing forest landscape restoration opportunities at the national level” by IUCN and WRI. It provides clear guidance for national teams of any size to undertake detailed and rapid opportunity assessments. The step-by-step methodology is designed to produce an assessment process that is locally adaptable, robust and affordable.

Landscape restoration and ROAM will be discussed at the IUCN World Parks Congress taking place in Sydney, Australia from 12 to 19 November 2014.

The publication “Assessing forest landscape restoration opportunities at the national level – A guide to the Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology” is published today by IUCN.

To download a copy, go to:

For more information or to speak to one of our experts, please contact:

Daniel Shaw
Manager, Knowledge and Communications, Global Forest and Climate and Change Programme
+41 79 345 1404

Aaron Reuben
Communications Officer for Landscape Restoration
+1 843 670 6084

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