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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 www.facebook.com/iucn.red.list   @amazingspecies    www.iucnredlist.org

 

 

News Releases

Artists unite for threatened species

20 October 2014
Collage of all White-lipped Peccary artworks
Photo: Kitty Harvill

The IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Peccary Specialist Group recently enlisted the voluntary help of artists to raise awareness of the White-lipped Peccary (Tayassu pecari), which is increasingly threatened by habitat loss and hunting. The creativity and generosity of the artists resulted in over 38 artworks showcasing a wide range of artistic styles, and capturing the peccary’s social behaviour, environment and charm.

“The artworks will contribute to environmental education and conservation efforts throughout the many Latin American countries where the species is threatened,” said IUCN SSC Peccary Specialist Group and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Brazil member, Alexine Keuroghlian, who came up with the idea.

White-lipped Peccaries occur from southern Mexico to northern Argentina and are important indicators of healthy forests and ecosystems. The species plays an important role as prey for large felines and in the function and structure of Neotropical forests as a major predator and disperser of seeds. White-lipped Peccaries are classified as Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List due to an ongoing population decline estimated to be close to 30% over the past three generations (18 years). White-lipped Peccary art by John Halbert. Photo: John HalbertHabitat loss, illegal hunting and disease pose major threats to the species, which has also suffered from sudden unexplained population crashes and local extinctions in several areas.

Artist Kitty Harvill, well-known for her wildlife and conservation-themed artwork, manages a Facebook group on which she challenges fellow artists to submit artworks of a particular threatened species every week. Every Monday, Kitty posts a new photograph of a species and invites members to spend an hour White-lipped Peccary art by Terri Jordan. Photo: Terri Jordanor two creating a quick, loose, experimental painting from that photo.

“I've been communicating with Kitty for some time, and was desperately looking for some nice paintings and artwork for our WCS Brazil White-lipped Peccary community outreach program. There are not a whole lot of peccary artworks out there. So I sent her some pictures and asked her what she thought of the idea of using the White-lipped Peccary as a challenge for her ‘52 weeks - Nature Painting Challenge’ group,” said White-lipped Peccary art by Connie Taylor Lephiew. Photo: Connie Taylor LephiewAlexine Keuroghlian.

Kitty graciously accepted Alexine’s request and submitted a call for White-lipped Peccary art, resulting in a whole collection of diverse and beautiful works which can all be viewed on the IUCN SSC Peccary Specialist Group’s Facebook page.

“This week has been very special, and has shown us not only the beautiful work of our members, but White-lipped Peccary art by Lynne Waters Giffey. Photo: Lynne Waters Giffeymore importantly their beautiful spirit of embracing this cause of the peccaries with such an abundance of creativity and generosity - giving of time and talent to help raise awareness of the desperate need at this time for the Nature on our planet,” said Kitty Harvill.

Inspired by the successful White-lipped Peccary campaign, other IUCN SSC members also approached Kitty and requested artworks of the Giant Armadillo, the Barbary Macaque, the Wattled Curassow, and most recently, the anteaters. White-lipped Peccary art by Diana L. Andersen. Photo: Diana L. AndersenMany of the artists are willing to donate their paintings, and Flávia Miranda, Deputy Chair of the IUCN SSC Anteater, Sloth, and Armadillo Specialist Group, is currently planning an art exhibition to potentially raise funds for threatened species. The electronic versions of all artworks have been made available to the IUCN SSC Specialist Groups to use in their conservation programs and educational material.


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Governments still behind on commitments to avert biodiversity crisis

17 October 2014
Chimpanzees in Taï National Park Park, Côte d'Ivoire
Photo: IUCN PACO

Despite increasing recognition of the biodiversity crisis and its impacts on human well-being, the scale of the government response is far from commensurate with the magnitude of the calamity, says IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, at the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 12), closing today in South Korea.

“This year’s biodiversity talks ended with a renewed sense of urgency if we want to meet the 2020 biodiversity targets,” says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre.”Many creative and interesting responses to the biodiversity crisis have been showcased, highlighting how nature can provide solutions to so many of society’s challenges. However, we will need to see a massive scaling up of the good work underway in the remaining years of this UN Decade for Biodiversity in order to have an impact.”

The results of the fourth edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 (GBO-4) released at the opening of the meeting on 6 October showed that countries need to respond by strengthening biodiversity conservation measures and accelerating implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, to bring about an improvement in the status of biodiversity.

Woman carrying wood and leaves. Photo: Flickr/BishiiThe Plan, which includes a set of 20 biodiversity targets to be met by 2020, was agreed by most of the world’s governments at the UN biodiversity summit in Nagoya in 2010. It represents the only global unified agenda to tackle ongoing biodiversity loss. This year’s meeting showed that the response from governments has been ‘business as usual’ and many countries are still far from fulfilling the ambitions of that plan, according to IUCN.

The Conference also recognized the critical link between the loss of habitat and the emergence of infectious diseases such as Ebola, which is plaguing many parts of the planet, pledging to do more to make such links clear to the wider world.

“Biodiversity loss is linked to so many of society’s ills, including increased frequency of natural disasters, climate change and food insecurity,” says Jane Smart, IUCN Global Director, Biodiversity Conservation Group. “It is imperative that governments place biodiversity conservation far higher up the political agenda and convert the fine words and pledges made at this meeting into tangible action for the sake of life on earth.”

The meeting saw the entry into force of the Nagoya Protocol on access and benefit-sharing, which will result in the enhancement of both monetary and non-monetary benefits to providers and users of genetic resources worldwide. It will also encourage further conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Countries were urged to effectively “mainstream” biodiversity into other sectors, national development policies and planning processes, and to reiterate commitments for a substantial increase in funding for the implementation of the Strategic Plan. Parties promised to double total biodiversity-related funding or at least maintain current levels until 2020.


For more information please contact:

Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations
+41 76 505 33 78
ewa.magiera@iucn.org


Editor’s notes:

Conserving the earth’s most valuable natural places and promoting nature’s solutions to global challenges is the focus of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 taking place in Sydney, Australia from 12 to 19 November.


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160,000 species by 2020 – will you help?

15 October 2014
Help us assess 160,000 species by 2020!
Photo: IUCN

This year is an important milestone for IUCN as it marks the 50th anniversary of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. By scientifically documenting on a case-by-case basis the nature and severity of threats to the survival of species, The IUCN Red List helps drive meaningful and appropriate conservation action.

Effective conservation planning requires a thorough understanding of the species in question. When we lack knowledge about a species, for example habitat requirements and population trend, or if we do not understand its value and fragility, we are not in a good position to ensure its survival. By providing information on the ecology, link to human livelihoods, and extinction risk of species, The IUCN Red List serves as an indicator of the status of global biodiversity and as a crucial warning system.

So far we have assessed a little over 74,000 species. Several species groups, including mammals, birds, amphibians, sharks, conifers, cycads, and warm-water reef-building corals have already been comprehensively assessed.

We are proud of this achievement but this number still only represents about 5% of species that have been described so far and a much smaller percentage of the estimates for the total number of species globally. We must urgently expand The IUCN Red List to make it an even more powerful conservation tool.

Our goal is to assess 160,000 species by 2020, more than doubling the Red List’s current size. This will require a tremendous amount of work, from collecting, analysing and reviewing data to publication and dissemination. We need your help! Watch our new video, sign our pledge, and spread the word. Help us make The IUCN Red List a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’. The world’s species are counting on you.


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Tiger conservation programme launches call for proposals

15 October 2014
Tiger at Chitwan National Park, Nepal
Photo: IUCN Nepal

Today, IUCN’s Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) is launching a call for field-based projects for tiger conservation. Nine tiger range countries are eligible for funding under this programme and multidisciplinary projects delivered by collaborative partnerships are encouraged. The five-year programme is funded by the German government through the KfW Development Bank.

Wild tigers will soon become extinct if nothing is done to halt their decline. Population numbers are estimated at 2,500 and tigers alarmingly now occupy only 6 to 7% of their former range.

Threats to tigers include illegal hunting, habitat destruction and loss of prey. They are hunted for their highly valued skins and their body parts, which are used as a component of many traditional Chinese medicines. Conversion of forest land to agriculture, commercial logging, and human settlement are the main drivers of tiger habitat loss.

Tigers are highly reliant on adequate prey resources and eat the equivalent of a large deer a week. In many areas, natural prey populations are reduced as a result of hunting by local communities, or through competition with livestock. In these areas, tigers often turn to livestock as an alternative food source, bringing them into conflict with local communities. This leads to a greater number of attacks by tigers on humans and in turn more retaliatory attacks by humans on tigers. The interactions are complex and both tigers and humans suffer as a result.

Village tiger response team in Bangladesh. Photo: Sugoto RoyThe aim of the ITHCP is to deliver field-based projects aimed at tiger conservation through addressing some of the issues described. By developing sustainable alternative livelihoods for local communities, the pressure on forest resources can be reduced. At the same time the quality of protected areas can be improved so that they support greater numbers of prey and ultimately healthier tiger populations. Reducing the direct conflict between tigers and humans should alleviate some of the pressures on both parties, enabling a more harmonious coexistence. In Tiger in Ranthambore National Park in India. Photo: James Kemseyaddition to this, the programme aims to tackle the poaching of wild tigers.

The call for proposals will initially be in the form of project concepts. A Project Advisory Committee will select candidate projects from these that should then be submitted in the form of full proposals. The application deadline is 30 November 2014.


For more information please contact:

ITHCP Secretariat
tiger.conservation@iucn.org
 

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Inger Andersen named IUCN Director General

14 October 2014
Inger Andersen
Photo: Inger Andersen

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, announced today the appointment of Inger Andersen as the new Director General of the Union starting in January 2015.

Currently Vice President for Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the World Bank, where she is responsible for the Bank’s strategy and operations throughout the region, Ms Andersen will begin her new role on January 12, 2015. She will succeed Julia Marton-Lefèvre who has served as IUCN Director General since January 2007.

“We are delighted to welcome Inger to IUCN,” says IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng. “She has the track record of strategic leadership necessary to bring IUCN and its vision to the next level. Indeed, her extensive background in environment and sustainable development will be central to IUCN’s ongoing ambition of placing nature at the forefront of the global development agenda.”

A Danish national, Ms Andersen began her career working on desertification and dryland issues in Sudan, and with the UN Sudano-Sahelian Office in New York. With the establishment of the Global Environment Facility in 1992, she was asked to serve as the Arab Region Coordinator for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), a position she held until 1999 when she moved to the World Bank.

At the World Bank, Ms Andersen worked primarily on water, environment and sustainable development, with special focus on the Africa and MENA Regions. In 2010, she was named Vice President for Sustainable Development, overseeing the technical quality of the Bank’s portfolio and leading the Sustainable Development Network. In view of her long association with the Middle East, Ms Andersen was requested to take on the Vice President position for the region at the onset of the Arab Spring the following year. Ms Andersen was also appointed Head of the CGIAR Fund Council in 2010.

“I am extremely pleased and honoured to be taking on the role of Director General at IUCN,” says Inger Andersen. “As an indispensable source of fact-based intelligence for the conservation community and beyond, IUCN is uniquely positioned to help the world tackle this century’s vast environmental and societal challenges. I will be delighted to lead those efforts, taking up the baton from my talented and dedicated predecessor Julia Marton-Lefèvre.”

Ms Marton-Lefèvre has successfully led the conservation movement during and between two World Conservation Congresses, held in Barcelona and Jeju. Under her leadership, IUCN grew to more than 1,200 government and non-government Members, 11,000 Commission members, and 1,000 staff in 45 offices around the world.

“It has been a rare privilege to head such a prestigious organization,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “IUCN is a unique union of inspiring and dedicated people, working together for ‘a just world that values and conserves nature’. After eight fascinating years at the helm, I am confident that I am leaving IUCN’s future in the most capable hands possible.”


For more information please contact:

Ricardo Tejada, Head of Communications, IUCN
+41 79 856 76 26
ricardo.tejada@iucn.org

Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations
+41 76 505 33 78
ewa.magiera@iucn.org
 

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Oceans and climate change at the forefront as three sailing canoes unite on an important voyage

14 October 2014
Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of severe storms in the Pacific
Photo: Randy Thaman

Pressure increases on the developed world to open its eyes to the realities of climate change, as the Mua Voyage expands to three canoes – sailing on behalf of all Pacific Islanders with the message to the world about ‘Our People, Our Islands, Our Ocean, Our Future’.

The three vaka canoes – the Marumaru Atua of Cook Islands, the Uto ni Yalo of Fiji, and the Gaualofa of Samoa, which also has crew from Tonga – departed Suva, Fiji, this morning on the third leg of the Mua Voyage. They were farewelled with a ceremony at the USP foreshore this morning.

The three canoes will sail to Vanuatu and then on to Australia, where they will join up with the Haunui of New Zealand. The four canoes will then sail together into Sydney Harbour – a high-profile and visible way to grab the world’s attention and convey the critical message on oceans and climate change.

The vaka canoes will sail under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on Wednesday 12 November, the opening day of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014. The Congress is the landmark global forum on protected areas, held once every ten years, and is expected to bring together more than 3,000 people from at least 160 countries.

Attorney-General of Fiji, Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, being shown the celestial navigation chart by crew members on board the Marumaru Atua, prior to it departing Suva on the next leg of the Mua Voyage. Photo: IUCN“We the government and people of Fiji recognise the importance and bravery of what [you] are about to do, and the messages you are taking to Australia… When they see those Pacific sails, they’ll ask and wonder who you are and they will hear your call, your message from all of us – not just to the Congress but to the public of rich countries – [from] ‘ridge to reef’, our collective concern is about our people, our ocean and climate change… This message is very important – you are representing our countries and our families. I’m very proud and envious of you and your bravery” said Attorney-General of Fiji, Hon. Aiyaz Attorney-General of Fiji, Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, speaking at the farewell of the Mua Voyage from Suva, Fiji. Photo: IUCNSayed-Khaiyum, who was Chief Guest at the farewell ceremony.

The voyage shows the lengths that Pacific Islanders are willing to go to just to get the world’s attention on the important issues of management of the oceans and addressing climate change. The voyage demands the world join with Pacific Islanders to protect and manage the large ocean spaces in this climate-challenged world.


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United Nations issues guidelines to minimize risk of invasive species

14 October 2014
European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
Photo: Riccardo Scalera

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has adopted new guidelines to prevent and control biological invasions by pets, aquarium and terrarium species, live bait and live food. The new guidance is largely based on input from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG).

Invasive alien species are animals, plants or other organisms introduced into places out of their natural range, where they become established and disperse, generating a negative impact on the local ecosystem and species.

Species invasions are a major and growing driver of biodiversity loss. Alien invasive species contributed to the extinction of 54% of the 170 extinct animal species on The IUCN Red List for which the cause of extinction is known, and were the main cause for 20% of these extinctions. The introduction of alien invasive species is continuously increasing as a result of growing international trade.

Burmese Python (Python bivittatus). Photo: Mark AuliyaEscape and release of pets, exotic caged animals, and species used as live bait or food are a major cause of biological invasions. Around 10,000 pets and companion species are present in Europe alone, including around 1,000 birds, several hundred mammals, around 2,000 species of reptiles and amphibians, as well as many invertebrates, including venomous spiders and scorpions.

Domestic cats threaten bird, mammal, and reptile populations in many parts of the world and invasive Grey Squirrels in Europe are outcompeting and transmitting disease to native Red Squirrels. Escaped exotic snakes, such as the Burmese Python in Florida and the Common Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Photo: Jordi Roy GabarraKingsnake on the Canary Islands, are damaging native wildlife. Population explosions of escaped or released pet rabbits are causing problems in many areas. Over 10,000 rabbits have invaded Helsinki, Finland, where they have taken over parks and graveyards, consuming flowers, loosening tree roots, and toppling tombstones.

Amphibians traded as pets or food are responsible for the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus that is causing the decline of wild amphibians globally. The Common Earthworm, a popular bait species, is detrimentally affecting the forest ecosystems of North America, and invasive crayfish species introduced for food are harming Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis). Photo: Sandro Bertolinofreshwater ecosystems in many areas. The Red Swamp Crayfish alone threatens two Critically Endangered and six Endangered species globally.

The CBD also asked Parties to compile and share information on alien invasive species and to make these data available to the databases managed by the IUCN SSC ISSG. IUCN was called upon to continue providing technical support to the Convention, such as further elaborating methods to rank invasive species by the magnitude of their impacts, and continuing to carry out assessments on the positive and negative effects of the use of biocontrol agents to combat invasive species.

The guidelines were adopted on 10 October 2014 during the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP 12) in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea.


For more information, please contact:

Piero Genovesi, IUCN SSC ISSG Chair
piero.genovesi@isprambiente.it
 

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IUCN Red List receives Prince Albert II of Monaco Biodiversity Award

13 October 2014
HSH Prince Albert II with the awardees
Photo: Palais Princier de Monaco

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was honoured with this year’s Prince Albert II of Monaco Biodiversity Award. The award was accepted by Caroline Pollock, IUCN Red List Programme Officer, at the seventh annual Award Ceremony.

“This award is an acknowledgement of the important role The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species plays in protecting the future of biodiversity,” said Caroline Pollock.

“It is also an appropriate recognition of the extraordinary dedication shown by thousands of conservation scientists around the world who volunteer their knowledge, data and time to create this incredible resource.”

The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is dedicated to the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development on a global scale. The Foundation supports initiatives of public and private organizations in the fields of research and studies, technological innovation and socially-aware practices. The Foundation provides assistance to projects in three main geographical zones, the Mediterranean Basin, the Polar Regions and the Least Developed Countries, and focuses its efforts on three main areas, climate change, biodiversity, and water.

“I am delighted to participate in the 2014 Award ceremony of the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and to join in the celebration of 50 years of important work on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General, who also attended the ceremony.

IUCN has launched a new campaign, Red List 50, that aims to substantially increase the number of species assessed on the Red List in order to make it a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’ and an even more powerful conservation tool. The goal is to assess 160,000 species by 2020, more than doubling the current number of species on The Red List.

IUCN Red List Programme Officer Caroline Pollock accepting the Prince Albert II of Monaco Biodiversity Award. Photo: Julia Marton-Lefèvre"The IUCN Red List gives biodiversity a voice to tell us where we need to focus our attention most urgently to address real, life-threatening issues,” said Caroline Pollock in her acceptance speech.

“We are profoundly grateful to His Serene Highness Prince Albert of Monaco for this Award. This support and recognition will help speed our progress towards achieving the goal of making The IUCN Red List a true Barometer of Life.”

The Climate Change Award was presented to Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, an internationally renowned scientist specializing in coral reef biology with a special focus on the impact of climate change on marine ecosystems, and the Water Award went to Ma Jun, a journalist and environmentalist known for having conducted an investigation on water and river pollution in China.

The Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation Award Ceremony was held in Palm Springs, California, on 12 October 2014.


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Tree Kangaroo Friendly Coffee – a triple win story

07 October 2014
Tree Kangaroo
Photo: Bruce Beehler

Imagine protecting threatened wildlife, empowering local communities in the process and doing it all through a premium organic coffee brand. Such was the triple win solution generated by Woodland Park Zoo’s Tree Kangaroo Conservation Programme (TKCP).

It is a story which began in 2009 in the remote valleys of Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Huon Peninsula and is echoing around Caffe Vita’s stores in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City, USA. Here 500 gram bags of this high quality coffee retail alongside freshly brewed mugs for in-store aficionados to enjoy.

The limited harvest is grown under native shade at elevations ranging from 1200 to 1500 metres by farmers who have committed to conserving 180,000 acres of land for the preservation of Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei).

WPZ_TKCP Conservation Officer holding YUS Conservation Coffee. Photo: Mark ZiembickiIt is then purchased and transported to market quarterly, distributed exclusively through the business’ own chain of stores. And according to Caffe Vita, it is the substance of the story behind the coffee as much as the quality of the product which attracts customers.

Deforestation to make way for subsistence rice farming, combined with over-hunting, was threatening this endemic species of marsupial, the only tree-dwelling kangaroo. Thus People walk for days to participate in the project. Photo: Ryan Hawkin consultation with communities of Yopno, Uruwa, and Som (YUS), Woodland Park Zoo helped create PNG’s first Conservation Area (CA) marking the first use of the country’s highest level of protection for forests and wildlife, forever prohibiting any form of resource extraction in the YUS CA.

This was a significant achievement given that 95% of PNG land is owned by local people and the 15,000 strong Tree Kangaroo Friendly Coffee in Papua New Guinea. Photo: Ryan Hawkpopulation of the YUS region was geographically fragmented. Out of these constraints arose opportunity to leverage existing skill sets in agriculture for communities to prosper in harmony with national policy. This was achieved by creating land-use plans and mapping land titles to identify opportunities for coffee planting balanced with habitat and resource management.

Setting aside land to grow high value coffee was so Tree Kangaraoo friendly coffee beans ready for processing. Photo: Ryan Hawkappealing that some people walked for two days to participate in the consultation meetings. Karau Kuna, TKCP Conservation Manager explained “in reality, all the planning was done by the people; we the facilitators just introduced the concept and provided the technical support”.

But going beyond coffee growing was key to the project’s longevity. Community members also learned about processing and will eventually take on marketing the Premium coffee with a story retailing in Seattle. Photo: WPZproduct to new and existing buyers. As with any new venture there are challenges, but Lisa Dabek, Director of the TKCP is confident. She explains “the coffee project continues to grow and strengthen despite the challenge of transport in this remote region. SOS funding has allowed us to provide further technical assistance for the coffee project while it is still at a critical juncture, however”.

Wildlife conservation is not always straightforward. Ironically it is all about people and policy and balancing priorities within a framework. While for SOS – Save Our Species and WPZ protecting Dendrolagus matschiei from extinction is the priority, the solution must be sustainable and fair. Fortunately in this case it also makes a great story - in fact winning the UN Equator Prize 2014, was just one more chapter in this success.

By linking consumers, conservation and community interests Tree Kangaroo-Friendly Coffee is one tale where a happy ending looks within reach.
 



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Improvement in protected areas needed to save Madagascar palms

07 October 2014
Voanioala gerardii canopy
Photo: John Dransfield / Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Despite the expansion of Madagascar’s protected areas, many palm species are still threatened with extinction, primarily due to forest degradation and destructive harvesting, reveals a study published in PLOS ONE. Eighty-three percent of the 192 endemic species are threatened, exceeding estimates for all other comprehensively evaluated plant groups in Madagascar.

“Definitive implementation of the new protected areas combined with local community engagement is essential for the survival of Madagascar’s palms,” says co-author Dr William Baker, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Palm Specialist Group. “The conservation of keystone species such as palms is of particular importance due to the potential consequences of their extinction to other species. Humans are among the organisms that rely substantially on ecosystem services provided by palms.”

Voanioala gerardii fruit. Photo: John Dransfield / Royal Botanic Gardens, KewIn 2003, Madagascar’s government increased the protected areas surface from 1.7 million hectares (3% of the island’s surface) to 6 million hectares (10%) as many unprotected areas were found to be critically important for biodiversity. This extension of Madagascar’s protected area network is highly beneficial for palms, substantially increasing the number of threatened species populations included within reserves. Notably, three of the eight most important protected areas for palms are newly designated.

However, the level of protection is still not sufficient to prevent the extinction of Madagascar palms. To date, only one area has been accorded definitive protected status; the remainder are not yet formally designated and major threats to palms, in particular agriculture and biological resource Dypsis ambositrae. Photo: Bill Bakeruse, persist in these reserves.

Twenty-eight species, some Critically Endangered, are not protected by the expanded network, typically because they occur in forest fragments far from protected areas. Populations in these small fragments of intact habitat are highly susceptible to environmental stochasticity and local extinction and therefore urgently require protection.

“We are very concerned about the many highly threatened species that are unprotected; some are only known from a few individuals on a roadside,” says first author Dr Mijoro Rakotoarinivo, member of the IUCN SSC Palm and Dypsis ambositrae. Photo: J. Dransfield/RBG KewMadagasacar Plant Specialist Groups. “Given the intensifying pressure from human population growth, compounded by projected impacts of climate change on species extinction, there is a need for prioritised action to save Madagascar’s palms.”

All Madagascar palm species were recently assessed in the 2012 update of The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, with 32% of species classified as Critically Endangered, 23% as Endangered, and 22% as Vulnerable. Several cases of deterioration in conservation status due to deforestation and over-exploitation were identified. For example, Dypsis ambositrae, Dypsis ifanadianae, and Voanioala gerardii were all uplisted from Endangered to Critically Endangered.


For further information, please contact:

William Baker
w.baker@kew.org


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IUCN Red List warns about climate change extinctions

06 October 2014
The Critically Endangered Bog Turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii) was one of 36 species modeled to assess warning times for species extinctions under climate change
Photo: Jonathan Mays

A new study shows that The IUCN Red List would provide several decades of warning time for species that might go extinct because of climate change.

As we are only just beginning to understand how climate change threatens biodiversity, some scientists believe that current risk assessment protocols, such as The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, will fail to identify many species threatened by climate change. However, an international team of researchers argue that current assessment methods are capable of detecting such species.

"There are going to be a lot of challenges for conservation under climate change but I think what we found here is actually positive," says Dr Jessica Stanton, lead author of the study and researcher at the US Geological Survey. "Our findings show that we already have some of the tools we are going to need for identifying species vulnerable to climate change."

This is the first study to quantitatively test the ability of any ‘warning system’ for identifying species threatened by climate change. To test the performance of The IUCN Red List, the research team used computer models to project the future abundance of 36 species of amphibians and reptiles endemic to North America under a ‘business-as-usual’ climate change scenario. Next, the team performed ‘virtual’ Red List assessments following the IUCN guidelines to determine the Red List status of each species throughout the simulation.

“Although the study shows that the time between when a species is identified as threatened and when it goes extinct (without any conservation action) is on average over 60 years, the warning time can be as short as 20 years for many species, especially if information about their populations is limited,” says Dr Resit Akçakaya, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission Standards and Petitions Sub-Committee and Professor at Stony Brook University. "That may not be enough time for saving a species because our ability to prevent extinctions depends on how fast conservation actions can lead to the recovery of species.”

Another important finding of the study is the need to initiate conservation action as soon as a species is listed at the lowest threatened category, which is ‘Vulnerable’. After a species is listed at the highest threat level, ‘Critically Endangered’, the warning time is predicted to be shorter than 20 years for most species. "This is because species at the highest threat level have declined to very low levels or exist in very small areas, and as a result they are already on the brink of extinction," says Dr Stanton.

Currently, there are 22,176 species listed as threatened (Vulnerable to Critically Endangered) on The IUCN Red List and of these, about 21% are classified as Critically Endangered.

"The bad news is that climate change will cause many extinctions unless species-specific conservation actions are taken,” says Dr Akçakaya. “But the good news is that the tools conservation organizations have been using to identify which species need the most urgent help, such as The IUCN Red List, also work when climate change is the main threat."

The study was published in Global Change Biology and was funded by NASA.


For more information, please contact:

Dr Resit Akçakaya
resit.akcakaya@stonybrook.edu

Dr Jessica Stanton
jcstanton@usgs.gov

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Global targets set for failure?

06 October 2014
Women on their way to market, Mali.
Photo: Intu Boedhihartono

Twenty targets designed to tackle the extinction crisis and restore the earth’s natural capital by 2020 were agreed on by most of the world’s governments at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Japan in 2010. Latest data, however, shows that many of those targets will not be met. As the 2014 CBD conference gets under way today in the Republic of Korea, IUCN calls for urgent commitment of action and financial resources to step up efforts to achieve the targets.

"Halfway through our Big Plan for nature, it is clear that the urgent call we gave in 2010 has not been answered – many of the targets the world agreed on will not be met in time,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “We can’t overstate the need for governments to intensify their efforts and resources for the sake of nature and the well-being of their people. This is the best investment we can – and must – make to ensure a sustainable future for all.”


Forests in the Gulf of Guinea, Africa. Photo: Geoffroy MauvaisBetter protection for protected areas

While progress towards achieving the global targets of protecting 17% of land and 10% of the ocean has been advancing significantly, many of the established protected areas are not sufficiently managed and funded.

“Countries seem to be most concerned with increasing the coverage of protected areas,” says Jane Smart, Global Director, IUCN Biodiversity Group. “But other aspects, such as effective management, conservation of areas of particular importance for biodiversity, and ecological representation, remain key challenges.”

A coral in Chagos. Photo: IUCN J. TamelanderFor example, recent research on vegetation loss in protected areas in South Asia has shown that rates of habitat conversion inside protected areas were indistinguishable from that on unprotected land. Similarly, research in Latin America has found a 250% increase in forest loss in protected areas in recent years.

“Well-managed protected areas are a crucial contribution to biodiversity conservation and sustainable development,” says Trevor Sandwith, Director of IUCN’s Protected Areas Programme. “Countries need to urgently incorporate protected area management into their national development policies. There is still some time to achieve this, but only if there is increased political commitment worldwide.”

Conserving the planet’s protected areas and promoting nature’s solutions to social and environmental challenges will be the focus of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 taking place in Sydney, Australia, 12-19 November. Among other announcements, the Congress will see the release of the latest data on the global coverage of protected areas.


Biodiversity and sustainable development

The theme of the CBD conference is 'Biodiversity for Sustainable Development’. Conservation, restoration and sustainable management of biodiversity are the foundation of sustainable development, and need a central role in our efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals.

“Social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development are inherently linked,” says Cyriaque Sendashonga, Global Director, IUCN Policy and Programme Group. “Biodiversity offers essential nature-based solutions in addressing some of today’s global development challenges, including our fight against poverty and efforts to enhance our well-being. If we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, protection of nature must receive more attention – and more financial resources.”


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Video - The IUCN Red List: Guiding Conservation for 50 years

06 October 2014
The Red List 50

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a stunning video explaining the importance of The IUCN Red List as a powerful tool that drives action for nature conservation has been released.

Featuring fabulous images, the video was produced by the photographer and filmmaker Mattius Klum, IUCN Goodwill Ambassador.

You can view the video here:

 

Visit our Red List 50 campaign site to sign the pledge to show your support for The IUCN Red List and find out what your Amazing Species match is!

 

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London art exhibition showcases threatened species

29 September 2014
Summer's Poison Frog constructed out of 20,000 Lego pieces by David Tracy and Ben Greenlee
Photo: Rachel Roberts

If you are in London, consider visiting ‘The Ark’ - a ten-day urban and contemporary art installation aiming to raise awareness of threatened species. Presented by Bear Cub Gallery, the exhibition features a wide variety of art based on species included on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Inspired by the well-known bible story of Noah’s Ark, artists from around the world were asked to produce two pieces based on a red-listed animal of their choosing. The pieces are displayed as a pair in the gallery space which has been transformed to look like the interior of the famous ark.

Among the featured works are a model of Summer’s Poison Frog, carefully constructed out of 20,000 Lego pieces, a digital collage of a Hawksbill Turtle, a colourful depiction of Rothschild’s Giraffe in ink on layered paper, and a stunningly realistic handcut stencil and spraypaint rendition of a Western Gorilla’s face.

“In building the ark we had to consider our passengers and we very organically came to the idea of having endangered animals on board, to help save the species in the greatest need,” says Charlotte Pyatt, Bear Cub Gallery Co-founder. “Louis Masai was instrumental in this decision and actually made us aware of IUCN and its work.”

Louis Masai in front of his piece 'Shem and Ham' Photo: Rachel RobertsLouis Masai, one of the artists featured in the exhibition and advocate for threatened species utilizes the Red List for much of his work. "As humans we should be looking to make use of our understanding of global existence instead of making life so much harder for the rest of the environment,” says Masai.

Masai’s contribution to The Ark is entitled ‘Shem and Ham (a Shrinking World Around us)’ and consists of two paintings of Amur Tiger cubs on miniature ‘habitat’ patches.

“Shem and Ham are the names of Noah’s two sons. The shrinking land densities pose an imminent threat to the Laura Ball's 'Cycle'. Print sales will support The IUCN Red List. Photo: Laura Balltiger, which is shown by the small patch of grass I’ve painted them on", says Masai. “The Lego trees reference the nostalgia of toys in childhood, symbols and relics of our past. I’ve painted them in quite a playful way; one bounding and the other curled up like domestic cats- it is a very human attribute to want to domesticate an animal, to tame the wild thing.”

Featured artist Laura Ball is kindly donating part of the proceeds from the print sale of her beautiful piece ‘Cycle’ to The IUCN Red List. You can purchase the print here, and the original watercolour is also for sale at the exhibition.

The Ark is open to visitors from 26 September to 2 October 2014 at Crypt on The Green, Clerkenwell, London.

 

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Landmark cooperation for conservation of Critically Endangered western Gray Whale

24 September 2014
Gray whale breaching
Photo: Dave Weller

Representatives of the Russian Federation, USA and Japan have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to implement IUCN’s range-wide Western Gray Whale Conservation Plan.

The genetically-distinct western subpopulation of the Gray Whale (Eschrichtius robustus) is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, numbering only about 125-156 animals in 2010. Over-exploitation was thought to have caused the extinction of western Gray Whales until Soviet scientists in the 1980s reported a small remaining group off Sakhalin Island in eastern Russia. The western Gray Whale population is slowly growing but experts say the death of just one mature female per year could send it back towards extinction.

The IUCN Western Gray Whale Conservation Plan was drafted in 2010 with the goal of ‘managing human activities that affect western Gray Whales and maximising the population’s chances for recovery, based on the best scientific knowledge.’

Representatives of the Russian Federation, USA and Japan signing the MoU to implement the Western Gray Whale Conservation Plan. Photo: IWCThe western Gray Whale spends its summers in the Okhotsk Sea. Its migration routes and winter breeding grounds are still poorly known but its range includes Russia, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China.

Although International Whaling Commission (IWC) regulations protect western Gray Whales from commercial and aboriginal subsistence whaling, major threats remain throughout their range. These threats include entrapment in Tail fin of Western Gray Whale in Sakhalin. Photo: Yuri Yakovlevset nets, entanglement in other types of fishing gear, as well as noise pollution and oil spills due to offshore oil and gas development.

The signing of the MoU took place during the recent biennial IWC meeting in Portorož, Slovenia. It is hoped that the other western Gray Whale range states will be able to add their signatures once the required internal consultations have been completed.


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