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03 December 2014
Red List at 50

This holiday season, support The IUCN Red List.

As part of the Red List 50 campaign marking the 50th anniversary of The IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM, we have launched a special month-long holiday campaign to raise USD 25,000 - enough funds to assess 100 additional species. The holiday campaign will last until the end of December and aims to bring us one step closer to our 2020 goal of 160,000 assessed species. Please help us make the Red List a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’ and an even more powerful conservation tool.

Make your donation here: and please share this campaign with family and friends. The world’s species are counting on you.






News Releases

Adapt or die: lessons from vulture conservation in South Asia

16 December 2014
Asian vulture populations have plummeted since the 1990s
Photo: Devki Nanda

For SOS Grantee Ananya Mukherjee, switching from dipstick technology to GPS-enabled bird-tagging was a classic case of adaptive management. Indeed it was one that allowed the larger vulture conservation project to continue working towards its objective: creating three effective Vulture Safe Zones (VSZs) on the Indian subcontinent.

Imagine you are an Indian vulture conservationist with a plan. That plan involves creating Vulture Safe Zones and then ensuring they remain safe enough so that one day vultures could be reintroduced to resume their role en masse as nature’s clean-up crew.

But what happens when things don’t go according to plan? Drawing inspiration from nature, one might say “adapt, or die”!

Vulture Safe Zones are 30,000 sq km areas, declared free from the drug diclofenac. Historically used to treat sick farm animals, diclofenac was also found to be highly poisonous for vultures, especially the Gyps vulture species endemic to the South Asian region.

Since the 1990s Indian vulture populations have plummeted by 97%. Thus, ensuring diclofenac was absent especially from the food supply of the vultures - including the cattle carcasses that they feed on - was deemed critical to the birds’ recovery prospects.

While illegal for veterinary use in India, diclofenac is cheap and still widely available for human consumption making it a slow and difficult process to encourage switching to safer more expensive options like meloxicam.

Progress was slow but steady thanks to the coordinated efforts of the SAVE program: Saving Asian Vultures from Extinction.

In tandem with the process of creating VSZs in consultation with various stakeholders, SOS Grantee RSPB and partners intended to use an innovative technology – a dipstick – to detect the presence of the drug diclofenac in the carcasses of dead cattle in VSZs, upon which vultures often feed. But test results were less than convincing.

Dipstick technology unreliable compared to monitoring live birds. Photo: Anand ChaudharyBecause the tools proved to be less than reliable, it became impossible to know if diclofenac was present or absent. Thus the likelihood of success in reintroducing the birds in the future became much less certain.

“In conservation you just cannot predict everything” Ananya Dipsticks: a simpler and cheaper technology that could not deliver. Photo: RSPBstresses as she recounts reacting to the discovery mid-way through the project.

Having evaluated a number of options, the project team decided the only way to infer if diclofenac was present was to directly monitor the presence and health of vultures in the Using vulture presence to infer quality of VSZs relies on GPS tagging. Photo: Anand Chaudharydesignated VSZ’s, using satellite tagging for a selection of birds instead.

Satellite tagging would allow the team to track bird movements and development within the VSZs. But tagging wild birds is not an ideal solution either. It is an expensive technology and tagging requires government permits.

“Consequently we need to be confident that the VSZs are actually safe enough before we start tagging”, Ananya explains. Making VSZs safe depends on effective Vulture successfully GPS tagged. Photo: RSPBawareness raising and advocacy work. Based on her success so far, Ananya has also recently published an article in the Bombay Natural History Society’s journal Mistnet, titled “Vulture Safe Zones to save Gyps Vultures in South Asia

Essentially, the advocacy work involves steadily engaging with multi-level stakeholders to incorporate VSZs in environmental planning while promoting the use of meloxicam.The vulture safe zone team in Uttar Pradesh. Photo: RSPB

Meanwhile periodic pharmacy surveys are conducted every year to track the trend in diclofenac sales and indicate whether the message to retailers and farmers alike is being acted upon: choose meloxicam; the vulture-safe alternative.

Based on the progress to date Ananya hopes to tag a few birds in 2015 in Haryana and Assam and later in Uttar Pradesh, Awareness raising continues to spread message about diclofenac threat. Photo: RSPBwith the other states to follow later.

This is a significant step considering “three different states means four different VSZs because of four different socio-political dynamics”. That little detail is not going to stop Ananya Mukherjee from reaching her goal, however.

Help SOS Protect More Species

Distribution of subsidized meloxicam encourages switching to safer alternative. Photo: Satya PrakashProtecting threatened species is critical because we are protecting parts of our life support system. Wildlife and nature supply us with so many basic necessities from food to fuel and shelter, but also inspiration in art, language and design to name but a few examples. Right now we are protecting more than 200 species – please contribute to SOS to help us continue to protect more of our natural heritage.

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Helping celebrate more than 50 years of IUCN’s contribution to wildlife conservation with a magazine and free digital app

12 December 2014
The magazine highlights conservation impacts and successes thanks to the IUCN’s Red List and SOS - Save Our Species initiative
Photo: Terre Sauvage

To help celebrate more than 50 years of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) work protecting our global natural heritage, Terre Sauvage has published a special edition of their renowned wildlife magazine.


Or visit the Apple App Store to download your tablet ready copy by downloading the Milan Voyages Nature et Territoires newstand. You will see the Terre Sauvage icon for immediate free download inside.

This edition is dedicated entirely to highlighting a selection of conservation impacts and successes thanks to the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species™ and SOS - Save Our Species initiative. The frontline conservation action supported by SOS is informed directly by the Red List’s accumulated knowledge, hence the reason they are presented together.

Inside the covers are a history of the Red List and infographics explaining how it works as our Barometer of Life on earth with the goal of doubling assessments to 160,000 species by 2020.

SOS conservation projects benefit from the Red List’s accumulated knowledge, hence the reason they are presented together. Photo: Terre SauvageMeanwhile, wildlife reporters and photographers for Terre Sauvage document many examples of how these initiatives are saving our precious species from a variety of threats. Content includes special features about the Saiga Antelope in Kazakhstan, Siamese Rosewood in Thailand, and the plight of the world’s vulture species.

But this is just a selection of the thousands of animals and plants around the world that face extinction. With species This special edition is available in digital format for free in English language. Photo: Terre Sauvagedisappearing at a rate up to 1,000 times higher than normal: 1 in 4 mammals, 1 in 3 amphibians, 1 in 3 corals, and 1 in 8 birds are at risk of disappearing forever.

We know these facts thanks to the work of 9,000 experts from the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission (SSC) who do the research, compile data worldwide and continuously Content includes special features about the Saiga Antelope in Kazakhstan, Siamese Rosewood in Thailand, and the plight of the world’s vulture species. Photo: Saiga Conservation Allianceupdate the Red List.

Similarly during three years of action SOS – Save Our Species has funded a portfolio of 85 conservation projects which so far protect 200 threatened species of plants and animals across 50 countries. Each of these projects addresses one or more of the most pressing threats wildlife faces in the 21st century such as over harvesting, “by-catch”, poaching or habitat destruction.

Nature is in trouble – we all know. But there is hope, there are successes and together we can achieve so much more than we do already – by turning knowledge into action and success on the frontline we can generate positive effects that impact us all.

By supporting SOS and the IUCN Red List, your donation can count toward significant conservation success.

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Frozen animal photo exhibition inspired by IUCN Red List

12 December 2014
Endangered book cover
Photo: Erik Hijweege

From 13 December 2014 until 29 March 2015, the Natural History Museum Rotterdam will host Endangered, a photo exhibition by artist Erik Hijweege inspired by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

The photos feature iconic animals like the Sumatran Tiger and the Black Rhino that are frozen in ice. Hijweege uses a special photography technique, the 19th-century collodion process, but he remains secretive about how he creates his photo subjects.

“I do get a lot of questions on the process,” says Hijweege. “All I can say is that it's real ice, the animals are frozen and there is no photoshop involved. The rest I leave to the imagination of the viewer....”

“Hijweege’s frozen animals give me a reassuring sense that death in the ice still offers a way of escape," says Kees Moeliker, curator of the Natural History Museum Rotterdam. “I imagine that’s the feeling cryonics patients have when they arrange to have their bodies immersed in liquid nitrogen, waiting on the day – some day – that scientists can bring them back to life with a bolt of electricity.”

Endangered is also available as a book here. Besides photographs, the book contains a list of 12,000 species that are classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List, presented over several pages in very small print.

"It’s impressive," says Henk Simons of IUCN. "It reads like an indictment: we must act now to end this extinction wave."

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The ring binder that shaped conservation as we know it

10 December 2014
Red Data books in their original binders
Photo: Craig Hilton-Taylor

New details have emerged about how the global system for classifying endangered species – which forms the bedrock for modern conservation – began with a humble ring binder and loose-leaf sheets; influenced by WWT’s founder, Sir Peter Scott.

50 years ago there was no way to collate data from research or anecdotes around the world to build a picture of which species were endangered. But Sir Peter Scott, founder of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and one of the founding fathers of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was desperately worried about what was happening in the world and the future of wildlife.

Conservation in those days was even more difficult than it is today, as data was scarce and communication was slower, making it hard to contact others in the scientific community and share results.

It seemed, as a logical minded ex-military man, that categorising species and their status was a good place to start. These hand-written, loose-leaf sheets in a ring binder were called the Red Data books, and each one contained information on a species, separated in proper categories, detailing how endangered they were and what was known.

Inside a Red Data book. Photo: WWTDespite Sir Peter’s wildly ambitious standards, he probably never dreamt that they’d form the basis of every other conservation programme of the future. Decades later, these basic yet functional books evolved into the much slicker, more modern IUCN Red List, now the international standard for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

From its small beginning, The IUCN Red List has grown in size and complexity and plays an increasingly prominent role in guiding conservation activities of governments, NGOs and scientific institutions. The Red List now covers over 76,000 species – a huge success growth from its humble precursor, the Red Data books.

Cassandra Phillips, Peter Scott’s personal assistant from 1981-1989 saw firsthand how passionate Sir Peter was Sir Peter Scott with Nenes. Photo: WWTabout saving species:

“Peter Scott was a brilliant communicator in so many different ways. He had a loose leaf page for each endangered species, separated in proper categories, how endangered they were, what was known, as a basis for action.

"Maybe it was partly his training in the war; he had a very organised mind and he just realised that the scientific basis of conservation and trying to help endangered species was Sir Peter Scott. Photo: WWTcrucially important – so the facts were important, and this was a wonderful visual way of getting facts across to people.

“Peter was inspiring, he would galvanise everybody, and it was always a question of 'let’s do it now'. If he thought we should get in touch with somebody about a particular campaign whether they were a broadcaster, a businessman or royalty, he’d just say ‘Let’s see if they are there now, where’s the telephone number?'. Environmental Sir Peter Scott painting. Photo: WWTorganisations need a Peter Scott. He really was, as David Attenborough called him, the Patron Saint of Conservation.”

Working with IUCN on the Red Data books, was however, only one of Sir Peter Scott’s many achievements. Sir Peter achieved what many could never dream of in a lifetime; finding success as a author, TV presenter, Olympian, conservationist leader of WWT and WWF, and also a husband and father. Sir Peter was also an acclaimed Bewick swan identification from beak patterns. Photo: WWTpainter who spent hours every day sketching things he saw in the natural world. He also sketched both WWT’s swan logo, and WWF’s panda logo.

Perhaps the most well known of Sir Peter’s achievements however was in 1964, when herealised that each individual Bewick’s swan could be identified by the unique pattern of yellow and black on its bill, so he began sketching the bill patterns of the Bewick’s swans that came to Slimbridge every winter. This started one of the longest-running single species studies in the world, and enabled detailed studies into the behaviour of these threatened swans, something which continues at WWT today.

Article from Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust news

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Seagrass habitat declining globally

09 December 2014
Photo: Dan Laffoley

Seagrasses are one of the most rapidly declining ecosystems on Earth. These underwater marine coastal plants are losing 7% of their known area per year. This alarming loss was confirmed at the 11th International Seagrass Biology Workshop (ISBW11) in Sanya, China last month, where 100 leading seagrass scientists and conservationists met to discuss and update the global status of this critical habitat.

The results of seagrass research and monitoring by international scientists confirmed the global trend of continued seagrass habitat loss and degradation, driven by unsustainable practices in coastal regions including rapid development and pollution.

Seagrass. Photo: Gabriel Grimsditch / IUCNSeagrass losses pose a further danger to already-threatened species that depend on seagrass for food and habitat, including sea turtles, dugongs and sea horses. Seagrass habitats are a nursery for many fisheries species and stabilize and filter shallow coastal environments. The food security of coastal people worldwide depends on healthy seagrass meadows. Additionally, ocean carbon is stored in seagrass meadows, preventing its release into the atmosphere where it would contribute to global climate Seagrass in Kampot. Photo: IUCNchange.

Seagrass scientists will continue their research and advocacy across all regions of the world. They are committed to ensuring that management agencies and governments have the best information available to safeguard seagrass meadows and to slow or halt their decline – a challenge that cannot be met without global public support. The next gathering of seagrass scientists will be at the 12th International Seagrass Biology Workshop in Wales, UK in 2016, but much must be done before then to stem current seagrass habitat losses.

For a summary of seagrass status and health in different regions of the globe, click here.

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Future challenges for large marine protected areas in the Pacific highlighted at World Parks Congress

07 December 2014
The Phoenix Islands Protected Areas of Kiribati
Photo: Ameer Addulla

As the Pacific Islands region continues to lead the way in creating large marine protected areas, the World Parks Congress has delivered a wake-up call to the rest of the world that the Pacific will require help to manage these massive areas of global importance.

Ocean management was one of the main themes of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014, held in Sydney, Australia – the first time the once-per-decade conference has been held in Oceania.

The Congress started with the arrival of the Mua Voyage – four traditional sailing canoes sailing 6,000 nautical miles from the Pacific Islands to Sydney calling for action on ocean management. The leaders of three Pacific Island countries – Cook Islands, Kiribati and Palau – were on-board the canoes as they sailed into Sydney Harbour, asking the world to follow their lead in committing to significant protection of their nations’ marine environments.

Diver in Marae Moana (Cook Islands Marine Park). Photo: Marae MoanaThese three nations have previously committed to establish some of the world’s largest marine protected areas. Kiribati has established the 408,250-square kilometre Phoenix Islands Protected Area, now the largest and deepest UNESCO World Heritage site in the world. Palau has committed to protecting 80% of the nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) – approximately 500,000 square kilometres.

Cook Islands is in the process of establishing ‘Marae Moana’, a marine park covering 1.1 million square kilometres. At the Congress, the Prime Minister of Cook Islands, Hon. Henry Puna, committed to expand Marae Ray in Phoenix Islands Protected Area, Kiribati. Photo: UNESCOMoana over the medium-term to include the Northern Group Islands. Once this occurs, Marae Moana will encompass the entire EEZ of the Cook Islands – approximately 2 million square kilometres.

Large marine protected areas are also being established in Pacific Island overseas territories. New Caledonia has committed to establishing the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, a marine park encompassing its entire EEZ of approximately 1.3 million square kilometres. This year, the Johnson Atoll, Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Photo: Lindsey Hayes, United States Fish and Wildlife ServiceUnited States announced the expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument (PRIMNM) to approximately 1.06 million square kilometres. French Polynesia, with an EEZ of approximately 4.77 million square kilometres, is expected to soon establish its own large marine protected area.

Given the sheer size of these commitments, how are these small countries and territories scattered across the vast expanses of ocean – some of them amongst the least developed states in the world – going to manage these marine areas to ensure they actually are protected?

US Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and President of Kiribati, His Excellency Anote Tong, signing a cooperative agreement to conserve the Phoenix Ocean Arc. Photo: Nick BakerThe answer lies in partnerships between international development agencies and the Pacific Island states, according to IUCN Regional Director for Oceania, Mr Taholo Kami.

“It’s an alert on oceans, an alert to all the international regional organisations and development partners that, in the next five years, we will see some of the biggest calls for ocean management – whether in protected areas or in Pacific Island EEZs. This is likely to exceed 10 million square kilometres. This can only be dealt with by a complete rethinking of partnership and delivery of assistance with development partners” said Mr Kami.

This is particularly important in the context of the Pacific Ocean’s role in sustaining human life. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, one billion people rely on marine fish as an important source of protein. The Pacific Ocean provides much of this protein source, but overfishing continues to deplete fish supply. Marine protected areas are intended to remove fishing pressure and allow fish stocks to recover – however unregulated and unrestricted fishing activities threaten this.

Compliance and enforcement of unregulated and unrestricted fishing activities within the marine protected areas poses the greatest challenge.

Progress is already underway, with the signing of a cooperation agreement between Kiribati and the United States at the World Parks Congress. Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands Protected Area shares a common boundary with the United States’ PRIMNM, with the two protected areas referred to as the ‘Phoenix Ocean Arc’. The President of Kiribati, His Excellency Anote Tong, and the US Secretary of the Interior, Mrs Sally Jewell, signed the cooperative management arrangement, which may include activities such as law enforcement, scientific research, removal of shipwrecks, conservation of seabirds, and eradication of non-native species (such as rats) from the remote atolls.

Partnerships that provide equipment, expertise and funding are needed to help Pacific Island countries and territories to maintain the integrity of their marine protected areas for the benefit of all.

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IUCN celebrates 50 years of the Red List with pioneering conservationists in Thailand

04 December 2014
Panelists at the Wild Talk event
Photo: Lea Guerrero

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IUCN Red List, IUCN South East Asia Group brought together conservation pioneers in Thailand in an inspiring talk that honours remarkable individuals who have dedicated a lifetime's work to species research and conservation.

Last night’s talk, held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok, paid tribute to the invaluable contributions of Dr Boonsong Lekagul, known as the father of Thailand’s conservation movement, and Khun Seub Nakhasathien, who shares the distinction of being among the most inspirational figures in wildlife conservation in the country.

The talk also honoured respected conservationists and guest speakers Jeffrey McNeely, Rataya Chantien and Warren Brockelman, who have also led the way for conservation work in Thailand.

The event, the first of three in the “Wild Talk Series”, was organized by IUCN together with member organizations and Species Survival Commission members in Thailand. The next two in the Wild Talk Series, to be held in January and February 2015, will feature the current and future generations of conservationists in Thailand.

“We are honoured to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the IUCN Red List by paying tribute to the work of scientists and individuals who have been instrumental in contributing to this undertaking,” said Dr Robert Mather, Head of IUCN’s South East Asia Group. “The IUCN Red List, which continues to catalyse much-needed action for biodiversity conservation, ensures that the legacies of Dr Boonsong, Khun Seub, and others like them throughout the world, will not be forgotten.”

Looking forward to the next 50 years, the guest speakers expressed optimism about ongoing and future conservation work in Thailand, despite challenges. They agreed that the key to keeping conservation alive was the importance of getting people, especially the youth, out into nature.

“You can’t develop a love of nature and conservation in people if you don’t take them out there,” said Jeffrey McNeely, who spent most of his career in the wilds of Thailand working with Dr Boonsong. “Helping people see nature, visit the national parks, getting them interested to take this on as a hobby – these are the kinds of things that need to be communicated to younger generations. And they can only be communicated through experience.”

A key take-away from this edition of the Wild Talk Series is that conservation goes hand in hand with love of nature. And in promoting conservation, this is ultimately what the Red List – which helps us better understand the status of species – is about. As Dr Mather concluded: “At the end of the day, you’ll only fight for what you love. You’ll only love what you understand. You’ll only understand what you know. And you’ll only truly know nature if you go out there and experience it.”

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of wild species and their links to livelihoods. Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. The List is known for guiding conservation action and policy decisions over the past 50 years.

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Terre Sauvage Exclusive: Saving Thailand's Blood Wood

04 December 2014
Rosewood habitat - Pang Sida National Park
Photo: Ann & Steve Toon

Highly prized for making reproduction Chinese furniture, Siamese Rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis) is being poached to extinction in the eastern forests of Thailand. Heavily armed gangs of poachers are invading the forests, where poorly armed, under-resourced rangers are fighting a battle to protect the few trees that remain.

To address this problem SOS – Save Our Species has provided a Rapid Action Grant to the FREELAND Foundation. FREELAND works with Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation to increase the capacity of the frontline staff to stop rosewood poaching.

In this story Anne and Steve Toon, award-winning wildlife journalists, who have just returned from Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex in Thailand, document FREELAND Foundation's anti-poaching work and write about experiencing the precious forest as a dengerous, conflict zone.

Setting up Freeland camera traps in Eastern Forest complex. Photo: Ann & Steve Toon“A red mud track cuts a single thin line between two impenetrable walls of dizzyingly tall, dark forest. We're penned in on each side by a twisted, tangle of damp undergrowth. Huge trees, fighting to break free from the stranglehold of snaking vines, reach skyward. Way up in the canopy their leaves greedily steal our daylight.

"Down here at ground level it's sticky, oppressively hot and claustrophobic. Thousands of tiny, prickly grass seeds like Siam rosewood tree. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonsmall, sharp spears have planted themselves in our socks and trousers while ravenous mosquitoes have begun feasting on our arms. The maddening buzz of cicadas in our ears is broken by strange hoots, screams and ear-piercing screeches.

"We're told they're the calls of gibbons and forest birds, but we can't see anything. Handfuls of butterflies, some the size of small birds, dance around the forest edges, their wings edged with neon blues and acid yellows. This richly-green, densely-vegetated, seemingly endless forest landscape is awe inspiring and beautiful, but it's also eerily forbidding and alien.

"We're deep in the Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site comprising five national parks and more than 6,000 sq km of rugged tropical forest in the east of Thailand, stretching to the Cambodian border. It's an internationally important Stump of Siam rosewood felled by poachers. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonbiodiversity hotspot, home to many threatened and endangered species.

"Eric Ash of the Thai-based anti-wildlife trafficking organisation Freeland Foundation has invited us along to check some of the camera traps he's placed along the forest trails.

"In recent months these camera traps have shed light on a Anti-poaching patrol in Thap Lan national park. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonsinister and deadly forest secret. It's the reason we're accompanied everywhere by an armed forest guard. For these forests have become a war zone. Gangs of armed criminals are laying siege to the forest in search of a natural commodity that fetches hundreds of thousands of dollars on the international black market. It's not the tiger they're hunting out, but a tree.

"The tree in question is the Siam Rosewood, (Dalbergia Thap Lan rangers unload Siam rosewood confiscated from poachers. Photo: Ann & Steve Tooncochinchinensis), a rare forest hardwood with a distinctive red-coloured timber that for centuries has been sought after for the manufacture of highly-prized furniture and religious statues in China. In recent years, as China's affluent middle class has rapidly increased, there's been a boom in demand for high status reproduction 'Hongmu' rosewood furniture. A single chair can sell for $1 million, and the price of Siam Rosewood has correspondingly skyrocketed, reportedly fetching as much as $100,000 per cubic metre. In the past two years several rangers have been wounded in confrontations with poachers, and one has been killed. Photo: Ann & Steve ToonIn just a few years the forests of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have been virtually stripped of rosewood, and the poachers have turned their attention to Thailand.

"Since 2008 Thai forest parks have seen a steady escalation in poaching, with the last two years reaching crisis proportions. Poaching gangs with as many as one hundred men, mainly Cambodians who cross the border illegally, often paying off border officials, are guided into the Evidence store of Siam rosewood confiscated from poachers. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonpark by local Thais. They are armed with chainsaws, motorcycle wheels with which they improvise hand carts to carry out the wood, and weapons – anything from home-made shotguns to AK47s.

"The felled timber is cut into rough planks, carried to the edge of the forest and loaded into vehicles, often adapted with hidden compartments, to be smuggled back across the border and ultimately to China. Improvised cart used by poachers to remove Siam rosewood. Photo: Ann & Steve Toon

"'We saw from our camera traps that the number of poachers in the forest increased by about 950 per cent within the span of a three month period,' Eric tells us. 'The poachers are financed by large criminal organisations. They also poach local wildlife for food, and clear large areas for their camps: if we can't protect the Siamese Rosewood, it's going to have significant implications for some of the other endangered species in the forest complex.'Confiscated wood showing poachers' cuts to aid debarking. Photo: Ann & Steve Toon

"Faced with these large, armed gangs, the park's anti-poaching rangers are outnumbered, out-gunned and out-resourced. In the past two years several rangers have been wounded in confrontations with poachers, and one has been killed.

"To rebalance the odds, Freeland Foundation applied for and received a grant from SOS Save our Species, to build Sayan Raksachart of Freeland, with confiscated outboard motors and chainsaws, used by poachers. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonon the work they were already doing in training and equipping rangers. 'We reached out to SOS Save our Species for an emergency rapid response project to increase the capacity of the park to interdict some of these large poaching groups,' explains Eric. 'This included a training programme to improve the skills of the rangers, providing equipment and field provisions, and implementing park-based monitoring systems, so they can understand the problem a bit more and coordinate resources to go after Sayan Raksachart of Freeland showing vehicle used by poachers. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonthe poaching groups more efficiently. We've also engaged with other government organisations so that they are brought in and they can exercise their mandates to go after poaching groups and criminal organisations.'

"At a substation in Thap Lan national park, Sayan Raksachart, a long-serving ranger who now works for Freeland doing community outreach work, shows us the fruit of the anti-poaching units' recent endeavour. It's a Thap Lan chief Taywin Meesap shows hidden compartment in poachers' vehicle. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonghostly timber yard of confiscated rosewood logs and rough hewn planks, marked with individual case numbers, heavily fenced with barbed wire.

"There are hundreds of motorcycle wheels, a shed full of chainsaws and outboard motors (some poachers smuggle timber across a lake that adjoins the park), and a parking lot with two dozen confiscated vehicles: clapped out pick-up trucks, minibuses with tinted windows, even an old Siam rosewood poachers caught by anti-poaching patrol. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonschool bus. Sayan points out how the insides of vehicles have been completely stripped so the felled rosewood can be smuggled out.

"Two cool boxes in an innocent-looking mobile grocery van have been customised to hide the illegal wood. The tons of timber represent seizures from only the last two years – and this is only one of several evidence stores that we see over the next few days. We start to appreciate the sheer Thai national park ranger surveying Pang Sida. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonscale of this poaching epidemic.

"We're interrupted by the arrival of a truck, loaded with rangers, rosewood and three freshly apprehended poachers. They are bundled out and made to squat on the ground, humiliated, as we take photographs. Two are just teenagers and it's hard not to feel sorry for them.

"These are the people taking the risks, but they're not the Siam rosewood tree. Photo: Ann & Steve Toonones making big money. Rosewood poaching has close ties to the illegal drugs trade: many of the poachers are addicted to 'yaba', methamphetamine/caffeine cocktail, and some are even paid in the drug. Taking it gives them the energy to work all night in the forest hauling the timber out.

"At Thap Lan park headquarters we meet ranger team leader Chaloaw 'Doi' Kotud, who has worked in the park for 20 years. He's wearing a cool khaki photo-vest with Korean lettering that he snaffled from a poacher he arrested and a camouflage face mask he wears rolled up on his head. You wouldn't want to mess with him. 'The most important thing the rangers doing this job need to have is heart and passion and they need to be fully prepared to sacrifice themselves for the job,' he tells us.

"During our time in the forest we speak to many rangers about the dangers they face and why they would do such a job. Quietly spoken, determined men, doing a dangerous job with limited resources and little thanks. Every one of them expresses their gratitude for the training and equipment provided through Freeland and SOS Save our Species: they talk of improved morale and self confidence, better patrol tactics for apprehending large gangs, the value of GPS and compass training, rangers' lives saved.

"Most are optimistic that they will ultimately win this bloody war with the poachers. But will it be too late for the Siam Rosewood?

"Already the largest rosewood trees have all but vanished from the forests, and poachers are resorting to digging up roots. It will be fifty years or more before the saplings that survive will mature into the forest giants that are now so rare. Tougher sentences for poaching, some recent success in seizing the assets of criminals higher up the chain, a promise from Thailand's military government to clamp down on corruption, reinforcement from the army - these are all encouraging signs for the future. But the poachers are already turning to other rare hardwood species to meet the insatiable demand from China.

"Before leaving Thap Lan, park superintendent Taywin Meesap tells us he has an important message for the Chinese. 'Many Chinese believe Siam Rosewood is a holy tree. That's why they want to have furniture made from it in their house, because they believe it will bring luck to them,' he says. 'I want to tell them this rosewood is not holy, it will not bring luck to their life, because this rosewood is obtained through the lives of rangers and criminals. It is wood that is stained through with blood.'”

The goal of the rosewood project is to immediately secure the safety of rangers and reduce the threat to TLNP's Thailand rosewood and biodiversity through the elimination of rosewood poaching. To learn more about this project please click here.

Protecting threatened species is critical because we are protecting parts of our life support system. Right now we are protecting more than 200 species please contribute to SOS to help us continue to protect more of our natural heritage.

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Widodo Ramono receives IUCN/WCPA Fred M. Packard Award

02 December 2014
Widodo Ramono has dedicated most of his life in preventing the extinction of Javan and Sumatran rhinos
Photo: IRF

SOS congratulates Mr. Widodo Ramono for receiving the IUCN/WCPA Fred M. Packard Award for his long dedication and inspirational leadership in preventing the extinction of Sumatran and Javan Rhinos.

The IUCN/WPC Fred M. Packard Award recognizes both protected area professionals and organizations for their outstanding services in conservation. The award was presented in November at the World Park Congress in Sydney.

Few people have dedicated more years to the study and conservation of Asian rhinos than Indonesian biologist Widodo Ramono. Born in 1945 in the Central Javan city of Blora, Widodo today serves as the Executive Director of Yayasan Badak Indonesia (YABI), the Rhino Foundation of Indonesia.

Located in Bogor, YABI is the International Rhino Foundation’s (IRF) principal partner in programmes that are helping to ensure the survival of both Sumatran and Javan Rhinos.

Mr Sukianto Lusli (YABI board member) receiving the award on behalf of Widodo Ramono. Photo: Jean-Christophe ViéWhen not at YABI’s headquarters in Bogor, Widodo spends most of his time at the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary or inspecting the work of Rhino Protection Units (RPUs) at Bukit Barisan Selatan, Way Kambas and Ujung Kulon National Parks.

SOS Director Jean-Christophe Vié who visited the project this year recounts “I had the privilege to visit the Ujung Kulon, Way Kambas and Widodo Ramono with Javan rhino field staff at the Ujung Kulon National Park. Photo: IRFBukit Bariusan Selatan National Parks with Pak Widodo. His leadership and long lasting dedication in preventing the extinction of Javan and Sumatran Rhinos are truly inspiring.

"The Rhino Protection Unit that YABI has developed with the support of IRF is a great model of collaboration between civil society and park administration. This award celebrates 50 years of dedication in preserving two iconic Widodo Ramono at the Ujung Kulon National Park. Photo: IRFspecies by a most devoted person: Widodo Ramono.”

SOS - Save Our Species has funded three rhino conservation projects, including the IRF's Sumatran Rhino project since March 2013. This short film diary presents some of the various activities to conserve this Critically Endangered species:

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Countries’ economic power does not predict conservation performance

01 December 2014
Red-eyed tree frog, Costa Rica
Photo: IUCN Photo Library/Julián Orozco Badilla

Some countries are doing better than others at conserving their share of global vertebrate biodiversity, and the factors of success are not related to economic wealth.

A new study conducted by conservation scientists from the Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive (CEFE), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and BirdLife International provides the first assessment of the performance of individual nations and regions in meeting their responsibilities for global biodiversity.

The study reveals that countries with the highest economic capacity are not performing better than others. Contrary to expectation, a country’s per capita Gross Domestic Product does not explain effectiveness at reducing biodiversity loss. Instead, success appears to result from sound policy implementation.

“We were surprised to find that two of the world’s wealthiest nations – the United States and Australia – are among the worst performers,” said lead author Ana Rodrigues, Researcher at CEFE. “This was even more striking given that developing countries such as Brazil, India, Peru and Madagascar have done proportionately much better at holding their commitments towards avoiding global biodiversity loss.”

Almost all regions and countries were found to have contributed negatively to global biodiversity trends for birds, mammals and amphibians, as measured by the IUCN Red List Index, but these losses were mainly concentrated in certain areas. Indeed, eight countries – Australia, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and the United States – are responsible for more than half of the global deterioration in the conservation status of vertebrate species.

Nonetheless, a handful of countries stand out for having tipped the overall balance from species sliding towards extinction to a net improvement in the status of the species for which they are responsible by setting some of them on the road to recovery. The best performers were five small island developing states, which have achieved net improvements in vertebrate conservation status.

“That nations such as the Cook Islands, Fiji, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tonga have been able to reverse the extinction crisis in their countries demonstrates how effective conservation actions like invasive species eradication, biosecurity, management of protected areas, and ecosystem restoration can be,” explained co-author Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC). “A key to the success that these five countries have had is the implementation of consistent conservation actions over several decades. Conservation rarely achieves success through short-term projects, but requires a long-term approach, something that donors should take note of.”

The study also reveals that the major threats to biodiversity differed substantially between areas. The impacts of overexploitation for food, traditional medicine and the pet trade have been most marked in Asian countries, particularly in China and Indonesia. Unsustainable agriculture and logging are the main drivers of biodiversity loss in Southeast Asia, while invasive species are a major threat in the United States, particularly Hawai‘i, and in Australia. In the tropical Andes and Central America, the invasive chytrid fungus is a leading cause of amphibian declines.

After the world’s nations failed to meet the 2010 Biodiversity Target, ‘to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss’, governments agreed on a new ambitious strategic plan for biodiversity. Aichi Biodiversity Target 12 adopted at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Nagoya, Japan, states that ‘by 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained’.

“Meeting Target 12 will require focused, long-term conservation investment in countries with large shares of responsibility for global biodiversity,” said co-author Stuart Butchart, Head of Science at BirdLife International. “Each country needs to invest more in conserving the species for which it is solely or largely accountable, focusing on the most important sites for biodiversity, such as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, and other Key Biodiversity Areas.”

The study by Rodrigues et al., Spatially explicit trends in the global conservation status of vertebrates was published in PLOS ONE on 26 November 2014.

The study is available here:

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

Ricardo Tejada, Head of Communications, IUCN
Tel: +41 22 999 0332

Lynne Labanne, Senior Marketing and Communications Officer, IUCN Species Programme
Tel: +41 22 999 0153

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Major art exhibition supports IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

28 November 2014
Here Today - an international contemporary art exhibition championing the 50th anniversary of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
Photo: Freuds

An inspirational art show celebrating 50 years of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ has opened in London this week. The threatened species-themed exhibit entitled Here Today includes interactive installations and rooms, and features the works of renowned artists such as George Condo, Tracey Emin, Andy Warhol, Gavin Turk, Peter Blake, United Visual Artists, Douglas Gordon, Stephanie Quayle, Gordon Cheung, Oswaldo Macia, Julian Opie, Mariko Mori, Carsten Höller, and Diana Thater.

“The aim of the exhibition is to raise vital funds for the IUCN Red List, while raising the public’s awareness of the fragility of our ecosystems and the drastic consequences that can prevail if we fail to take responsibility and action,” said Hannah Pawlby of Freuds, who organized the event.

Here Today is a unique exhibition about our planet: the voices, visions, sounds and even smells from contemporary artists from around the world, brought together to address global issues that are important to every single one of us.”

Darshan the Imperial Eagle poses in front of Andy Warhol's Bald Eagle. Photo: FreudsThe opening of the event benefitted from highly unusual and spectactular advertisement when a specially trained Imperial Eagle named Darshan flew over London landmarks with a camera on his back in honour of the IUCN Red List's 50th anniversary.

More than just a gallery, this exhibition provides a social hub in central London, featuring a series of workshops and discussions from prominent artists, curators and conservation experts. On 4 December at 6 pm, three IUCN experts will discuss how the IUCN Red List benefits Play Dead; Real Time by Douglas Gordon. Photo: Freudsconservation at a free event at the exhibit venue.

Here Today was supported by Baku Magazine and is curated by Artwise. The exhibition will be open at the Old Sorting Office, 21-33 New Oxford Street, London from 25 November to 17 December before embarking on a world tour, eventually completing its journey at the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Human by Rashad Arakbarov. Photo: FreudsOpening hours are Monday to Wednesday from 11-7 pm, Thursday to Friday from 11-8 pm, and Saturday to Sunday from 11-6 pm. Admission is free.

For more information, please visit

To register for the free presentation on 4 December, please email

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Best breeding season yet for Mediterranean Monk Seal colony

27 November 2014
67 baby monk seals were born this season. In this photo is a mother with a two month old calf
Photo: M.Cedenilla / CBD-Habitat

Mercedes Muñoz Cañas, Project Technician with SOS Grantee CBD-Habitat, an IUCN Member, shares encouraging news from the Mediterranean monk seal (Monachus monachus) sanctuary at Cabo Blanco, Mauritania.

So far the project team have counted 67 seal births at the colony and the 2014 breeding season has not yet closed! According to Mercedes this is a new record for the “Costa de las focas“ - a sanctuary that constitutes the biggest hope for the recovery of this Critically Endangered species.

The "Costa de las focas” is a terrestrial-maritime reserve that protects the three breeding caves for approximately half the total world population of Mediterranean monk seals. Since conservation work began in the late 1990s, the colony’s population has more than doubled from 109 to 250 animals. Significantly the average annual birth rate has also doubled from 30 to 60 in more recent years.

Since conservation work began the colony’s population has more than doubled from 109 to 250 animals. Photo: M.Cedenilla / CBD-HabitatAll these successes would not have been possible without daily surveillance, asserts Mercedes. To recover through normal breeding, the seals first must be free from human disturbance. Meanwhile nearby, lies Nouadhibou, the second largest city in Mauritania with a population that is growing.

Before the reserve was created in 2001, many barnacle collectors, line fishermen and fishing pirogues (sea going Undisturbed by human presence normal breeding and rearing behaviours can occur. Photo: M.Cedenilla / CBD-Habitatcanoes) were active in the vicinity of the colony’s breeding caves. This created stressful and dangerous situations for the monk seals.

While there was no direct interaction harming the species, the human activity was occurring inside and around the Control and monitoring of the colony from the cliffs above the caves. Photo: O. Muñoz / CBD-Habitatarea where the seals lived, scaring them away and leaving firstborn pups alone during breeding seasons. The presence of fishing gear in the water compounded this problem – inexperienced pups and youngsters were more at risk of becoming entangled and even drowning as a result.

This short film shows just how real the problem of entanglement can be for young Mediterranean monk seals:

Entanglement in fishing nets threatens younger seals in particular. Photo: CBDThus, while 67 new pups sets a record and shines a candle against the looming shadow of extinction, the ongoing work of surveillance and awareness raising must also continue.

Ensuring minimal human activity in the reserve, especially closer to the breeding caves is key according to Mercedes. But it is just part of the longer-term solution. To learn more about this project please click here.

Protecting threatened species is critical because we are protecting parts of our life support system. Wildlife and nature supply us with so many basic necessities from food to fuel and shelter, but also inspiration in art, language and design to name but a few examples.

Right now we are protecting more than 200 species – please contribute to SOS to help us continue to protect more of our natural heritage.

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Eagle soars over London to launch art exhibit supporting threatened species

20 November 2014
Darshan the Imperial Eagle soars towards London's Tower Bridge
Photo: Freedom

This week, an Eastern Imperial Eagle named Darshan flew over London’s Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Olympic Park with a Sony Action Cam strapped to its back to promote the opening of the Here Today art exhibition in support of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™.

Here Today will showcase contemporary art featuring threatened species in a wide variety of media including paintings, sculptures, videos, dance, music, and photography, to mark the 50th anniversary of the IUCN Red List. The event was organized by London-based Freuds, who enlisted the help of the Freedom Project, an international multimedia conservation initiative for eagles, to promote the exhibition.

Freedom’s eagles live in Les Aigles du Léman, a conservation park in Thonon, France. The park’s aim is to boost eagle numbers in Europe by captive-breeding the birds and preparing them for reintroduction to the wild. Falconer Jacques-Olivier Travers has specially trained some of these birds and was happy to bring his Eastern Imperial Eagle Darshan to London to help spread the word about Here Today, which opens on Tuesday 25 November in London.

Darshan’s stunts resulted in some breathtaking video footage, similar to that taken by Freedom’s White-tailed Eagle Victor who flew from the top of Paris’ Eiffel Tower in September this year to promote the Freedom film supported by SOS – Save Our Species.

Here Today will run from 25 November to 17 December 2014 at the Old Sorting Office, 21 New Oxford St, London.

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Ziyuan Fir discovery brings new hope for one of China’s most threatened trees

18 November 2014
The rangers in search of Ziyuan Fir
Photo: Feng Rujun

Twenty-one Ziyuan Fir (Abies ziyuanensis) trees have been discovered after eight months of intensive fieldwork in Yinzhulaoshan Provincial Nature Reserve (NR), Guangxi, China according to David Gill from SOS Grantee and IUCN Member, FFI (Fauna and Flora International). SOS funded this Abies species conservation project in January this year.

Labeling of discovered trees Photo: Yang JiqinThe Ziyuan Fir (Abies ziyuanensis) and Yuanbaoshan Fir (Abies yuanbaoshanensis) are two of the most highly threatened tree species in China.

Restricted to limited areas in southern China, both species have small and declining populations: less than 300 Yuanbaoshan Firs and 600 Ziyuan Firs remain in their wild habitat. According to the IUCN Red List, Ziyuan Fir is classified as Endangered and Yuanbaoshan Fir as Critically Endangered. Although on the edge of extinction, effective Ziyuan Fir trees from distance Photo: Feng Rujunconservation interventions for both species have been lacking explains David.

The project team in China has put together a team including local authorities, nature reserves, local communities and a scientific institution with an objective to promote the natural regeneration of both Abies species.

As part of ground-breaking agreement signed in June 2014, Yinzhulaoshan Measuring of a newly discovered Ziyuan Photo: Yang JiqinProvincial Nature Reserve, Yuanbaoshan National Nature Reserve, the Ziyuan Forestry Department, Rongshui Forestry Department, Guangxi Institute of Botany and Guangxi Forestry Bureau all committed to provide staff, and facilities in a collaborative bid to save the species.

After three months of planning, the formal field work began in March, and was accompanied by patrolling and monitoring of the Yinzhulaoshan reserve. Yinzhulaoshan Provincial Nature Reserve (NR)Yinzhulaoshan Nature Reserve, the habitat of Ziyuan Fir Photo: Feng Rujun, in North Guangxi, is home to a genetically unique population of Ziyuan Firs that had undergone a severe decline from 2,500 individuals in 1979 to only 50 individuals recorded in 2012. A team of four nature reserve staff and six rangers took turns to comb the reserve in search for Ziyuan Fir trees by walking zigzag lines across different topographies.

Although several field surveys have been carried out since the 1980sThe fruits of Ziyuan Fir Photo: Yang Jiqin, nobody has ever completed a comprehensive survey of the whole 5000 hectare nature reserve. Therefore there was still hope that additional Ziyuan Firs might exist in unexplored parts of the forest. By October a total of twenty-one new Ziyuan Fir individuals, both small seedlings and adult trees were identified.

The discovery of these additional Ziyuan Firs increases the tree’s known population size in the reserve from 50 to 71 individuals and each of them will play a key role in the survival of the species. These new findings provided a great encouragement for further work and research to all staff working within the project, David elaborates.

Yinzhulaoshan NR has already applied to local government to upgrade its status from a provincial to a national level nature reserve, highlighting the importance of the area for the conservation of Abies species.

Protecting threatened species is critical because we are protecting parts of our life support system. Wildlife and nature supply us with so many basic necessities from food to fuel and shelter, but also inspiration in art, language and design to name but a few examples. Right now we are protecting more than 200 species please contribute to SOS to help us continue to protect more of our natural heritage.

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