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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

Mounting pressure for marine protection

20 February 2015
Dr. Earle visiting the local school on Ascension Island
Photo: Dan Laffoley

IUCN has teamed up with a coalition of leading marine conservation organisations to urge the British Government to safeguard the maritime zones of the UK’s overseas territories by creating three of the largest marine protected areas (MPAs) in the world.

Through the Great British Oceans campaign, this alliance between 106 signatories including The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Greenpeace UK, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Marine Conservation Society, the Zoological Society of London, the Blue Marine Foundation and National Geographic Society is gaining support for the UK to fund large-scale protection of the waters surrounding Ascension, Pitcairn and South Sandwich Islands.

The United Kingdom has jurisdiction over the fifth largest maritime zone in the world – an area of ocean nearly 30 times the size of the UK itself. The three MPAs proposed, around Ascension and South Sandwich Islands in the South Atlantic and Pitcairn in the South Pacific, would more than double the size of existing protected areas in the ocean.

The team only saw one or two sharks throughout four days of diving Photo: Dan LaffoleyFully protecting these areas would mean shielding countless rare and threatened species including endemic seabirds, whales, turtles, penguins and corals from the enormous threats of overfishing, pollution and resource extraction.

Earlier this month, Mission Blue founder, IUCN Patron and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr Sylvia Earle visited Ascension Island with IUCN’s Marine Vice-Chair of the World Commission on Protected Ascension Island - Green Turtle Photo: Simon VacherAreas, Professor Dan Laffoley, and RSPB’s Head of Overseas Territories, Jonathan Hall, to explore this Mission Blue ‘Hope Spot’, draw attention to its values and seek the views of island residents.

After their visit, the team flew to London to address the House of Commons. Dr Earle outlined the challenges faced by the local community of just 800 people, and the huge responsibility placed upon them by the UK Government to Ascension Island - Masked Booby with Chick Photo: Simon Vachermanage a vast marine area on its behalf.

“We have a long way to go to reach our global pledge of protecting 10% of the world’s ocean by 2020 so action needs to be taken now to protect these precious ecosystems. By protecting its overseas territories, the UK has the potential to create the largest marine reserve in the world and make a significant contribution to this global target,” said Dr Earle.

The rugged seabed around Ascension Island provides excellent camouflage territory for the scorpionfish Photo: Dan Laffoley"The event at the House of Commons was an important opportunity to brief politicians and their guests. Having the latest satellite technologies developed in the UK embraced, particularly right now by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, would enable monitoring and enforcement to be much more cost effective than back in the days when the only solution was providing expensive enforcement boats. This is a key opportunity for the UK to show innovative global leadership in the area," said Professor Laffoley.

“This opportunity to create fully protected, large-scale marine reserves in the UK Overseas Territories comes as the UK general election approaches in May 2015,” Professor Laffoley added. “Public pressure on government officials to provide support and safeguard marine wildlife is mounting. There is still time, but not much, for the UK to do its part to safeguard vast expanses of ocean and the health of our planet as a whole.”

By protecting Ascension Island, the Pitcairn Islands and South Sandwich Islands, the UK could surpass the United States as the world leader in ocean protection.

The Great British Oceans campaign has noted that enforcing and monitoring the proposed marine reserves would be cost effective, with the use of novel satellite technology being developed in the UK by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Satellite Applications Catapult and the UK Government. This technology enables analysts to monitor and report suspicious and illegal fishing practices in marine reserves. Pew has already agreed to support monitoring efforts in the proposed Pitcairn MPA.

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“The outbreak of the Ebola virus caused some setbacks for the project but we are finding our way through” Edward Aruna, Project Coordinator for an SOS funded Sierra Leone sea turtle conservation project

18 February 2015
Education and sensitization are the prime tools in order to help to save the sea turtles
Photo: Edward Aruna

Of the world’s seven marine turtle species, five are known to occur along the Sierra Leone coast, including: Loggerheads (Caretta caretta), Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas), Olive Ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea), Hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata), and Leatherbacks (Dermochelys coriacea).

The by-catch threat and insufficient awareness of locals about laws protecting threatened sea turtle species have severely affected local populations of these species according to Edward.

With support from SOS, the Reptile and Amphibian Program – Sierra Leone (RAP-SL) is working with coastal communities to reduce these threats through awareness raising, law enforcement, beach and by-catch monitoring, and planting of indigenous trees along nesting beaches to prevent erosion. While tree planting is important, RAP-SL considers education and sensitization as the prime tool in order to save the turtles.

Despite the fact that Sierra Leone was threatened by the West Africa Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak, RAP-SL forged ahead with activities that contribute to awareness raising among locals. During the months of the EVD outbreak (September 2014-January 2015), Edward reports on achieving the following objectives:

    Locals releasing Leatherback turtle Photo: Edward Aruna
  • The production of 1000 calendars and ten billboards which were distributed in coastal communities raising awareness;
  • The purchase of monitoring materials including five digital cameras, measuring tapes, waterproof files, pens and pencils;
  • The collection of seedlings of the identified fruit trees within the communities which were nursed in the polythene bags in nurseries established by RAP-SL staff members;
  • Monitor-tagging a turtle Photo: Edward ArunaEstablishment of nurseries comprising coconuts, mangoes, oranges, pear and other fruit trees in five communities. The trees, once planted and cared for, are believed to help prevent beach erosion (important nesting sites) in the future, and provide shades, food and fuel wood (especially the local fuel wood trees) for locals. The provision of shade and food on nesting beaches is hoped to serve as incentives to locals for the protection of marine turtles in future;
  • Distribution of education materials including During meetings with community members copies of the fisheries bill are distributed Photo: Augustine Sesaybrochures, T-shirts, calendars, and billboards and fisheries bill (law regulations to monitor fishing activities) within and beyond project site;
  • Training of sixty-three monitors where the trainees were provided with the monitoring materials. Since completion they carry-out their everyday beach and by-catch monitoring exercises within their respective communities;
  • The by-catch monitoring effort has so far resulted in recording 70 marine turtles captured in fishing nets, Monitors carrying beach demarcating pegs Photo: Edward Arunaof which 56 were released. Fourteen turtles were found drowned in fishing nets and these were buried;
  • The beach monitoring effort has resulted in recording 67 nests of which 11 have hatched and resulted into the sighting and releasing of 428 hatchlings.

Because of a ban on public gatherings in the country as a consequence of Ebola, RAP-SL strategized the community meetings aspect into either one-on-one or small-scale level 1000 calendars were produced and distributed as a part of the sea turtles awareness raising campaign Photo: Edward Arunameetings involving key stakeholders on a per-community basis.

Edward reports that so far five of such meetings were conducted during which copies of the fisheries bill were handed over to the most senior persons at the meetings, while T-shirts and calendars were freely given out to the community leaders and monitors.

In order to create more impact, RAP-SL is also planning on conducting more major meetings immediately once the ban on public gathering is lifted, during which more community members and leaders will be brought together for a general awareness raising forum.

“The outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, coupled with the present RAP-Sl established tree nurseries in five communities. The trees will help prevent erosion, will provide shade, food and fuel wood for locals Photo: Augustine Sesayharmattan (a cold-dry and dusty trade wind), are causing some setbacks in the project’s progress but we are finding our way through.” says Edward.

“Fortunately for the project implementation effort, no Ebola case has been so far reported from the project’s coastal communities. Up to date, it is still not clear whether the Ebola virus can or cannot thrive in such saline environments as those along the coast.”

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EU initiative to counteract African wildlife crisis

17 February 2015
Elephants in Chobe National Park, Botswana
Photo: Sue Mainka

African wildlife is facing an unprecedented crisis. Currently, about 5,000 African flora and fauna species, which represents 27% of all species assessed on the continent, are listed on the IUCN Red List threatened with extinction. The main threats to African wildlife are weak governance, poaching and wildlife trafficking, and the loss of habitats through land conversion and climate change. In addition, wild species are used unsustainably for purposes such as firewood and bushmeat.

The European Commission is developing a Wildlife Conservation Strategy (Larger than Elephants: Inputs for the design of an EU Strategic Approach to Wildlife Conservation in Africa) to counteract this crisis, and has invited input from stakeholders at a recently organised conference. The meeting gathered over 150 experts from Europe, Africa from both governmental and intergovernmental institutions as well as non-governmental organizations.

The European Commission estimates that at least 6 billion EUR will be required to manage most of the natural resources in Africa over the next ten years. Crucially, however, these resources should not be considered as a ‘cost’, but as an investment to safeguard the livelihoods of millions of Africans as well as the unique wildlife on the continent.

The current draft Strategy focuses on terrestrial species, but DG Development and Cooperation announced that flora and fauna from marine as well as inland waters will be added in due course.

For the occasion, the IUCN Brussels team was reinforced by some senior officials of various Specialist Groups of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) (African Elephant, African Rhino, Antelope, Conservation Breeding, Wild Pig Specialist Groups), the SSC Policy Sub-Committee, and the IUCN Species Programme. In his presentation, Jean-Christophe Vié, Deputy Director of the Species Programme, highlighted the need for continued investment in monitoring, and called for a stronger consultation and involvement of African governments, citizens and civil society (private and NGO sectors). He also emphasised that sustainable funding, and improved governance were needed to address the crisis, and that efforts should be better coordinated.

He also highlighted the work of IUCN/SSC Specialist Groups in providing the most needed data and elaborating species-specific strategies that complement the proposed conservation strategy; and presented SOS – Save Our Species, a small grant mechanism aiming at supporting civil society organizations acting on the frontline of wildlife conservation.

IUCN very much looks forward to the final version of the Wildlife Conservation Strategy (expected in May/June 2015) and trusts that the European Commission will be able to rapidly implement this, in cooperation with its partners in Africa.

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What Maleos teach us about parenting, trust and the world we live in

16 February 2015
Both Maleo parents work hard to find the best place for their egg
Photo: Kevin Schaffer / ALTO

Maleo (Macrocephalon maleo), Sulawesi’s endemic birds, can inspire us about parenting, trust, and the world we live in. Marcy Summers, Project Director with the SOS grantee Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AlTo), writes to SOS about Maleos’ nesting season and their heartening rituals.

“Right now, in the month of December, it is the height of the Maleo nesting season in Tompotika.

Here is how the story goes. The male and female Maleo leave their Tompotika rainforest home and travel many kilometres to reach their nesting ground. It is their natal nesting ground, likely used by generations of their grandparents and great-grandparents ahead of them.

The Maleo mother is heavy with her one gigantic egg, it's six times the size of a chicken egg, for a bird whose body is of similar size. The couple travels slowly, mostly by walking rather than flying.

View from above new Maleo site, Sulawesi. Photo: Marcy SummersWhen they reach the nesting ground, the Maleo parents spend a great amount of hours digging around, trying to find just the right place for their egg. Other couples are doing the same. The males tend to squabble with one another quite a bit, while the females just keep working.

Finally, when they feel that the time and place is just right, the Maleo mother quietly lays her one enormous egg in a deep pit in the sand. After the egg is laid the two parents work again to cover it to a depth of one meter. When the Maleo egg is six times the size of a chicken egg Photo: Marcy Summers / ALTOwork is completed and both parents assured they simply leave the nesting ground and return to the rainforest. The egg will be incubated in the sand warmed by solar heat.

It is the ultimate act of hope and trust. The Maleo parents invest everything they have in this ritual. They give their one huge egg plenty of energy and time.

The chick will take about 80 days to hatch. But when that chick hatches, the parents will be long gone.The chick will After the egg is laid the two parents cover it up to a depth of one meter Photo: Kevin Schaferhatch fully feathered, able to fly and search out its own food and forest home, if such forest and food remains to be found. The parents will never do anything to help it get along in the world. Maleo parents surrender all control, give their eggs the best start they can, and then simply trust the world to be friendly enough for their children to make their way in it on their own. Maleos species legacy rests on that trust.

The egg is incubated for 80 days in the sand warmed by solar heat Photo: Kevin SchaferIt's a profound inspiration for us humans. To us, Maleos offer an invitation and a challenge to fulfill their tremendous trust, to make sure that the world is friendly enough for a future, for Maleos and for all. That is, if we humans can restrain ourselves from clearing the forests, from taking too many Maleo eggs, from destroying the planet's life support systems, as we've been doing for so long, then we are saying to the Maleo: "Yes, your trust is justified. The world is indeed a beautiful, friendly place, and your children will be okay." Isn't that what we all want to believe?

Maleos are living witnesses to the fact that we are not in control of our childrens' future, we must surrender that to the friendliness of the future world. But it is very much within our power to make the world a more friendly place for all, right now.”

Thanks to the SOS funding, Alliance for Tompotika Conservation (AITo) for two years has carried out conservation activities raising public awareness and strengthening site-based conservation of nesting Maleos. The AlTo team confirmed the end of poaching and the regained protection of the Maleos of Taima. Today Maleos’ eggs are no longer dug up by humans and sold as a souvenir.

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A Successful Endangered Clanwilliam Sandfish Translocation in the Biedouw River, South Africa

06 February 2015
schooling juvenile sandfish into translocation nets
Photo: Gustav Klotz n John Lucas

In November 2014, SOS grantee Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) completed the second ever translocation of a highly threatened indigenous fish species for conservation purposes in South Africa.

This translocation intervention is a significant milestone identified in the Sandfish Biodiversity Management Plan which was recently gazetted for public comment by the Department of Environmental Affairs in South Africa.

saving one fish at a time Photo: Gustav Klotz n John LucasAccording to EWT’s Alwyn Lubbe the Cape Critical Rivers (CCR) team successfully translocated 338 juvenile Sandfish from the lower reaches of the Biedouw river, where they were not likely to survive, to a pristine stretch higher up in the river. “Here these juveniles will be able to mature without the risk of predation by other fish” he explains.

The story began in October 2013 when the CCR team undertook a two week survey of the Doring River, a of which the Christy Bragg helping translocate juvenile sandfish Photo: Gustav Klotz n John LucasBiedouw is a tributary. A key finding from this survey was the high number in the Biedouw of juvenile Endangered Clanwilliam Sandfish (Labeo seeberi) – a species previously not known to spawn in that system.

Unfortunately, observations suggested that there was no recruitment from these juveniles as they are heavily preyed upon by alien invasive fish species in the Biedouw and Doring main stem, and are also at risk of dying when the keeping the water in the buckets cool and aerated Photo: Gustav Klotz n John Lucaspools in the Biedouw dry up during the summer months.

Following a subsequent Cape Critical Rivers Steering Committee meeting it was reasoned that the management of a key habitat for the recruitment of the species might prove to be critical for its survival. It remains to date the only documented spawning site for the species outside the Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve.

cliff climbing with young sandfish to release into the river Photo: Gustav Klotz n John LucasAt this meeting, the partners representing the CCR team (Endangered Wildlife Trust, Department of Environment and Nature Conservation, CapeNature and the Freshwater Research Centre), decided unanimously that the Biedouw could be the new refuge for the Sandfish.

The long-term goal established was to rehabilitate the Biedouw River by removing alien fish and plants and reduce the over-abstraction of water during the summer months by In the holding bucket Photo: Gustav Klotz n John Lucaslocal farmers. This would provide suitable habitat for spawning and young Sandfish and thereby improve Sandfish survival prospects.

The short-term goal was to translocate juvenile Sandfish from the lower stretches of the Biedouw River - where pools dry up during summer and the fish live in great danger from predation alien fish species - to the upper reaches of the river, where there are permanent pools and no alien fish Alwyn Lubbe releasing baby sandfish Photo: Gustav Klotz n John Lucaspredators.

Before the translocation effort, the team went through a rigorous, peer-reviewed risk assessment of the proposed intervention using the framework of the IUCN Translocation Guidelines to ensure all elements of the translocation maximized conservation benefits, minimized risk and ensured the ethical welfare of the translocated individuals.

“Considering that during the Doring River system survey in 2013, the team sampled just 45 adult Sandfish in the entire survey, this translocation of 338 individuals represents a significant improvement in the likelihood of increasing the abundance and genetic variation of mature adult Sandfish in the Doring mainstem and in turn will facilitating their ongoing spawning in tributaries”, Alwyn adds.

In all, the translocation was a huge success. It was a great example of the potential for collaboration between government and private nature conservation organizations.

“What is more, I know the team is really looking forward to returning to the Biedouw next year. We just might see a viable Sandfish population in its upper reaches yet”.

Help SOS do more

Protecting threatened species is critical because in so doing 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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On the Campaign Trail for Atlantic Humpback Dolphins

04 February 2015
Raising awareness among local stakeholders is integral to the project's success
Photo: WCS

Developing an informed and empathetic ‘constituency’ is essential for the long-term conservation of the Atlantic Humpback Dolphin (Sousa teuszii). That is the conviction of SOS Grantee Tim Collins working with IUCN Member Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Mayumba National Park, Gabon and the Conkouati-Douli National Park (CDNP) in Congo.

Some of the conservation issues affecting Sousa teuszii in these areas can be tackled with direct intervention. Recent work with artisanal fishers to free the coastal strip and to intercept trawlers is a good example. Changing attitudes can be trickier, however.

So the prospect of participating in a week-long Festival de la Biodiversité in Congo’s second city, Pointe Noire, seemed an ideal opportunity to capitalize on the ongoing stakeholder engagement activities taking place in CDNP.

Low awareness and strongly held opinions among fisher communities represent real challenges for Atlantic humpback dolphin conservation Photo: T. Collins, WCSOpinions among fishing communities can be strong and the lack of awareness profound according to Tim. Project stakeholders range from children in rural villages to senior parks management officials and the methods needed range from informal discussions to fully developed curricula and stakeholder meetings.

Thus far, the main effort had been focused on children and fishers. This is because fishers are engaged on a routine Reaching a broader audience at the Festival de la Biodiversité in Pointe Noire also helps legitimize the message back in CDNP Photo: WCSbasis as part of the project’s monitoring work and during routine stakeholder meetings convened by the park management.

Further, outreach officers using a curriculum developed as part of this project regularly visit children living near CDNP. Both approaches work, but require patience and energy. “Sharing messages can be a challenge, especially in places where environmental values are largely utilitarian and fatalistic; many people believe that nature provides There was a strong emphasis on audience participation, be it through songs, art or performance Photo: WCSaccording the whims of a higher power, thus removing themselves from any responsibility to manage their actions”.

The festival was sponsored by the l’Institut Français du Congo and co-organisers included the NGOs Renatura and Styl’Oblique as well as the Regional Directorate of the Environment. Held in in three different locations in the city over the course of the week, participants included local schools, local authorities (including the Mayor), Outreach officer Robert Nkala describes some of the species in the park to a festival goer Photo: WCSbusinesses, the public and media.

Using art and short theatre performances the project team’s objective was to present and promote the educational work conducted in the villages of CDNP. These were in general well attended by a wide range of festival-goers while festival organizers estimated a total attendance in excess of 100,000 people, including the television audience.

“The level of participation was hugely encouraging. We were able to share the good news on a local level. People, and particularly children, were very engaged in our activities and many of them went home having learned about the very rare dolphin that lives secretly on their shores”.

What is more, the visibility made an impression back at the project location. With news of the festival relaying back to fishers near CDNP, the humpback dolphin constituency just got a little stronger.

Help SOS do more

Protecting threatened species is critical because in so doing 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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