IUCN Red List Status

The southern Africa region supports a significant proportion of the world’s species dependent upon freshwater wetland habitats. Given that the region represents approximately 4% of total global land mass (excluding Antarctica), it is apparent that many groups, waterbirds and mammals in particular, are well represented within the region.

Estimated numbers of extant inland water-dependent species by major taxonomic group 

 Taxon

Number of described species

Number of species in southern Africa

% of global total found in southern Africa

Fishes ~15,000 359 2%
Molluscs  ~ 5,000 122 2%
Odonates     5,680 298 5%
Crabs  c.1,300   19 1%
Amphibians     3,908 221 6%
Mammals     c.135   13 10%
Waterbirds       868 221 25%
Turtles       250   15 6%

Data sources: Balian et al. (2008); with assistance from Wetlands International, and the IUCN Red List Unit; see also www.iucnredlist.org/initiatives/amphibians

Of the 1,192 species assessed at the regional scale, just over 7% are regionally threatened. When compared with the global level of threat to those taxonomic groups which have been comprehensively assessed (e.g. birds, 12% threatened; amphibians 32% threatened; mammals, 23% threatened), this figure appears relatively low. This relatively low level of threat is most likely a reflection of the current low level of development throughout the region. The exception is South Africa where development has been more extensive and this is reflected in the higher numbers of threatened species in the country (see Geographic Patterns). With extensive plans for the development of southern Africa’s water resources over the next few decades, however, the situation could change dramatically unless impacts to freshwater species are considered during the development planning phases for these projects.

Summary of the IUCN Red List Category classifications at the regional scale by taxonomic groupings *

 Taxon Total
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC DD
 Fishes   277 0% 0% 3% 6% 3% 3% 69% 16%
 Odonata   278 0% 0% 0% 1% 3% 0% 71% 16%
 Molluscs     99 0% 0% 3% 7% 0% 3% 55% 29%
 Crabs     19 0% 0% 0% 0% 5% 0% 79% 16%
 Aquatic Plants   519 0% 0% 2% 1% 3% 1%  86%  7%
 Total  1192 0% 0% 2% 3% 3% 1% 76% 13%

IUCN Red List Categories: EX - Extinct, RE - Regionally Extinct, EW - Extinct in the Wild, CR - Critically Endangered, EN - Endangered, VU - Vulnerable, NT - Near Threatened, LC - Least Concern, DD - Data Deficient

Many of the southern Africa species are also endemic to the region so their regional Red List assessments are equivalent to global assessments and so also represent the risk of global extinction for the species. Of the 280 regionally endemic species assessed here, 53 species (19% of those assessed) are globally threatened. This higher level of threat reflects both the higher risk of extinction for restricted range species and the higher concentration of restricted range species in South Africa where development threats are higher.

With the inclusion of Red List assessments for a number of additional taxonomic groups assessed through other initiatives, the number of species assessed for their global risk of extinction is 897 of which 119 species (13% of those assessed) are assessed as globally threatened.

Summary of the IUCN Red List Category classifications at the global scale by taxonomic groupings *
Taxon
Total
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC DD
Fishes  170 0% 0% 5% 9% 5% 6% 58% 19%
Molluscs   40 0% 0% 8% 8% 0% 5% 23% 58%
Odonates   54 0% 0% 2% 6% 17% 4% 43% 30%
Crabs   16 0% 0% 0% 0% 6% 0% 75% 19%
Aquatic Plants  156 0% 0% 4% 3% 9% 2% 67% 15%
Amphibians  221 0% 0% 2% 9% 5% 2% 72% 13%
Water Birds  221 0% 0% 0% 0% 1% 3% 96% 0%
Turtles     6 0% 0% 0% 0% 17% 17% 50% 16%
Mammals   13 0% 0% 0% 0% 15% 0% 85% 0%
Total  897 0% 0%
3% 5% 5% 3% 71% 13%

 IUCN Red List Categories: EX - Extinct, RE - Regionally Extinct, EW - Extinct in the Wild, CR - Critically Endangered, EN - Endangered, VU - Vulnerable, NT - Near Threatened, LC - Least Concern, DD - Data Deficient.
Additional data sources: Waterbirds - Wetlands International, Amphibians - IUCN Global Amphibian Assessment, Turtles - Peter Paul Van Dijk, Mammals - IUCN Global Mammal Assessment.

 

* These figures include the most recent global assessments, and therefore may differ from the results given in the Southern Africa Report, published 2009