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Almost half of Madagascar’s freshwater species threatened – IUCN report

06 March 2018
Photo: Allan Brandon

Forty-three percent of Madagascar’s freshwater species are threatened with extinction, including many endemic species important to local livelihoods, a new IUCN led study has found.

The report, ‘The Status and Distribution of Freshwater Biodiversity in Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands Hotspot’, assessed the extinction risk of 653 species of freshwater fish, molluscs, dragonflies, crabs, crayfish, shrimps and aquatic plants in Madagascar and the surrounding Indian islands. It found that 43% of these freshwater species are threatened with extinction – a level of threat that is around double that documented across Africa as a whole.

Photo: Ranaivoson H.C. Freshwater species help provide clean water, and support commercial and artisanal fisheries across Madagascar. Major threats to these species include habitat loss and degradation of freshwater ecosystems caused by unsustainable agricultural practices, such as the slash-and-burn approach, as well as overfishing, mining and dam construction, the report found.

“We are alarmed to find that so many of Madagascar’s unique fish, crabs and other freshwater species are sliding towards extinction,” says Laura Máiz-Tomé, IUCN Programme Officer and a co-author of the report. “Given the poverty levels in the country, the Malagasy people depend heavily on freshwater species for their livelihoods, through fisheries or the use of plants to make baskets for example. To halt this dramatic decline, capacity building for conservation of these environmentally and economically valuable species should be made a priority.”

Photo: kai Schutte Madagascar’s extensive wetlands consist of more than 300 kilometres of rivers and streams and 2000 square kilometres of lakes. They support a high diversity of aquatic species, such as the distinctive pink-and-orange Madagapotamon humberti crab, or the live-bearing Madagasikara river snail species. More than half of the fish species and 151 species of dragonfly assessed in this study are endemic.

Deforestation from agriculture and human settlement has reduced the island’s littoral forests by over 80%, and pushed species such as the distinctly coloured Littoral Pintail dragonfly (Acisoma ascalaphoides) towards extinction. It is now categorised as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

 “The freshwater plants found exclusively in Madagascar are particularly threatened,” says Sylvie Andriambololonera, Coordinator of the Missouri Botanical Garden, Madagascar Research Unit - project partners in this study. “Many species had not been recorded in the 50 years preceding this study, highlighting a need for more continuous field assessments. Up to date assessments reduce gaps in our knowledge and ensure we can prioritise species for conservation.”

The study identified and mapped 23 freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas – river, lake and wetlands systems of particular importance for biodiversity – across Madagascar. Freshwater biodiversity is significantly underrepresented within protected areas in Madagascar, the report noted.  

Photo: Mike Averill“Our knowledge of Madagascar’s unique freshwater species remains incomplete: close to a quarter of the assessed species are classified as Data Deficient on The IUCN Red List. We urgently need more research to effectively conserve species in this hotspot for global biodiversity,” says William Darwall, Head of IUCN’s Freshwater Biodiversity Unit.

The study was funded by The Critical Ecosystem Partnership (CEPF) and supported by the Madagascar Ministry for Environment.

You can access the full report here.

Notes to editors

IUCN and project partner Missouri Botanical Garden have shared the findings of this report with representatives from NGOs, private sector organisations and national and international government bodies in Madagascar. Six cross-sectoral representatives have been selected to further disseminate the findings of the report. The representatives will play a crucial role in promoting in-country measures to conserve, manage and protect freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas.

Effective aquatic conservation strategies in Madagascar will rely on key decision makers accounting for Malagasay cultural taboos and traditional beliefs. Traditional prohibition systems known as ‘fady’ are central to the culture of some Malagasy people. These traditions, enforced by social behaviour, govern the timing and method for harvesting freshwater species, such as crabs and crayfish. They may also provide protection for threatened species.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact:

Elaine Paterson, IUCN Media Relations
Tel: +44 (0)1223 331128,; Web:

Cheryl-Samantha MacSharry, IUCN Media Relations

Tel: +44 (0)1223 331128,; Web:



Loss of old trees threatens survival of wood-dependent beetles – IUCN Red List

05 March 2018
Anastrangalia sanguinolenta, assessed as Least Concern. Photo: Frédéric Chevaillot.

Brussels, 5 March 2018 (IUCN) – Almost a fifth (18%) of European saproxylic beetles assessed so far are at risk of extinction due to ongoing decline in large veteran trees across Europe, a new IUCN report has found.

Saproxylic beetles depend on dead and decaying wood for at least part of their lifecycle, and are involved in decomposition processes and the recycling of nutrients in natural ecosystems. They also provide an important food source for birds and mammals, and some species are even involved in pollination.

The new European Red List of Saproxylic Beetles by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assesses the conservation status of almost 700 species of saproxylic beetles. Around 80 European experts across Europe contributed to the project which was funded by the European Commission and through a LIFE grant.

“The IUCN Red List gives us key intelligence for understanding the status of saproxylic beetles and highlighting conservation priorities to ensure their long-term survival,” says Jane Smart, Director, IUCN Global Species Programme. “Some beetle species require old trees that need hundreds of years to grow, so conservation efforts need to focus on long-term strategies to protect old trees across different landscapes in Europe, to ensure that the vital ecosystem services provided by these beetles continue.”

Due to their dependence on dead or decaying wood, the loss of trees across Europe is the main driver of decline in saproxylic beetle populations. Loss of ancient and veteran trees, tree age structure gaps, degraded landscapes that are unfriendly to tree growth, and indiscriminate felling for spurious health and safety reasons all contribute to the loss and degradation of suitable saproxylic beetle habitat.

Stictoleptura erythroptera assessed as vulnerable. Photo: Herve BouyonStictoleptura erythroptera, for example, needs large veteran trees with cavities, and is therefore dependent on the preservation of old trees. This species was assessed as Vulnerable, and its main threat is the continuing loss of old trees across its range.

However, some progress has been made in the forestry sector, and the importance of deadwood is being increasingly acknowledged in many countries.

“The amount of dead wood in European forests has steadily increased in recent years also due to the integration of the requirements of EU nature and biodiversity policy into forest management plans”, says Humberto Delgado Rosa, Director for Natural Capital, DG Environment, European Commission. “This is having a positive impact on saproxylic beetle populations and demonstrates that the adequate mainstreaming and implementation of the EU environmental policies brings results."

Other major threats identified include urbanisation, touristic development, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Mediterranean region. Iphthiminus italicus, for example, has been assessed as Endangered due to large-scale silvicultural activities and an increasing frequency of wildfires. The report also highlights that there is a lack of data for many species.

“The population trend of half the species assessed remains unknown,” says Keith Alexander, IUCN Saproxylic Beetles Specialist Advisor. “Furthermore, a quarter of the species were assessed as Data Deficient, which strongly indicates that more monitoring is urgently needed.”

Iphthiminus italicus - Assessed as Endangered. Photo: Herve Bouyon The report recommends that conservation strategies for European saproxylic beetles with the highest risk of extinction should be developed and implemented, and that best habitat management practices be broadly adopted. Public awareness should also be raised about the importance of trees for saproxylic beetle conservation.

“It is critical for the Common Agricultural Policy to promote the appropriate management of wood pasture habitats containing veteran trees across Europe,” says Luc Bas, Director, IUCN European Regional Office. “Currently, management practices lead to the transformation of wood-pastures into either woodland or grassland, destroying the essential vegetation mosaic many saproxylic beetles need.”

For more information or interviews please contact:
Marc Hall, Junior Communications Officer, IUCN European Regional Office, +32 2 739 0101,



Teaming Up With Lacoste To Champion Awareness Of Threatened Species Conservation

28 February 2018
Lacoste SOS. Photo Credits: Lacoste.

From this year, Lacoste will support IUCN’s SOS – Save Our Species programme to help fight the extinction crisis. Launching at Paris Fashion Week 2018, the Save Our Species capsule collection is the fruit of an inspiring collaboration between global fashion and sportswear brand Lacoste SA and IUCN’s Save Our Species.

The Lacoste team has created 10 limited edition polo shirts, where its iconic crocodile leaves its historic spot to ten threatened species. Together these rare reptiles, birds and mammals champion the plight of all known threatened species. The number produced in each series corresponds to the remaining population sizes in the wild as estimated by IUCN species experts. People can participate in the championing the cause by

  • Snapping up a polo-shirt via Lacoste’s online shop
  • Sharing the videos on social media using the #LacosteSaveOurSpecies hashtag or
  • Getting more involved with Save Our Species.

Lacoste Pile. Credits LacosteThe Crocodile. This is how the French tennis champion Rene Lacoste was nicknamed in 1927 for his tenacity on the court. Today, the Lacoste logo still symbolises the will and commitment the brand invests into each action it undertakes. Taking the capsule collection from concept to launch has been achieved in half the time it usually requires for such a project and testifies to the dynamism which businesses like Lacoste can bring to the global extinction threat: a universal challenge which many agree is of utmost urgency to environmental sustainability.

For IUCN in its 70th anniversary year, not only is this an opportunity to engage with business to help achieve its mission, but it also fits with the SOS open partnership approach which invites support from all sectors of civil society to bring their respective skills and competencies to bear in scaling up the fight on extinction.

You too can help by sharing our species online using the hashtag #LacosteSaveOurSpecies on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.




Brazil on the verge of changing marine conservation history in the South Atlantic

27 February 2018
Arquipélago de São Pedro e São Paulo. Photo: Caninde Soares.

Brazil is on the verge of changing marine conservation history in the South Atlantic. After lagging behind other developing countries in Marine Protected Area coverage, with only 1.5% of its jurisdictional waters under some sort of protection, the Brazilian government has opened public comments on proposals to establish a mosaic of MPAs around the oceanic archipelagos of St. Peter & St. Paul Rocks and Trindade & Martin Vaz, covering approximately 900,000 square kilometres and making Brazil´s MPA coverage jump to some 21% of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Both archipelagos are biodiversity hotspots and their surrounding waters harbour many endemic, vulnerable and endangered species, including whales, sharks, sea turtles and many pelagic species severely depleted by industrial overfishing. 

The mosaic includes proposals for two core no-take areas of approximately 109,000 km² of Natural Monuments, strictly no-take areas where fishing, mining and any extractive activity would be totally prohibited, whereas in the surrounding multiple-use zones fishing would be strictly regulated. A coalition of Brazilian environmental NGOs and Tourism sector stakeholders, however, is pushing for the no-take zones to be greatly expanded.

Brazil has made numerous commitments to protect marine biodiversity to date, including with the Promise of Sydney, the 2017 Ocean Conference, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14. The proposals for the new large mosaics of protected areas are also related to (and will strongly need) the Brazilian Blue Initiative

The President of Brazil, Michel Temer, is expected to make a decision in early March, after the public consultation period ends. Any organisation or individual interested in submitting expressions of support for these MPAs can do so by writing to Consulta Publica, Gabinete Pessoal, Ministro Defesa, as well as to and, emphasizing that the expansion of Integral Protection no-take MPAS is most welcome and necessary to safeguard marine biodiversity.

At the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014,  as part of the Promise of Sydney, Brazil committed to:

  1. 1. Bringing the biodiversity protection from 1.5% to 5% (equivalent to 175,000 km² of the Brazilian marine territory as protected areas);
  2. 2. Bringing under enhanced biodiversity protection at least 9,300 km² of marine and coastal areas (with regulated sustainable use practices); and
  3. 3. Identifying, designing, and preparing for implementation at least two financial mechanisms able to contribute to the long-term sustainability of MCPAs.

The result would be:

  • Expansion of protected area coverage of Brazilian coast, territorial sea and Economic Exclusive Zone to 5%; 
  • Safeguarding sensitive and unique habitats off the South American Atlantic coast;
  • Development and deployment of a system-wide biodiversity monitoring system for all Marine Protected Areas; 
  • Incorporating PA management with natural resource extraction agents (especially oil and gas) and the Brazilian Navy – sharing responsibilities and scaling up the conservation results of this potential partnership;
  • Revisiting and updating the biodiversity priority conservation areas map for coastal and marine ecosystems; 
  • Improving fisheries and other natural resource extraction regulations on coastal and marine ecosystems.



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