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Celebrating 50 Years of The IUCN Red List

30 January 2014

Throughout 2014 we are celebrating the significant contribution of The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in guiding conservation action and policy decisions over the past 50 years. The IUCN Red list is an invaluable conservation resource, a health check for our planet – a Barometer of Life.

The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species and their links to livelihoods. Far more than a list of species and their status, the IUCN Red List is a powerful tool to inform and catalyse action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. It provides information on population size and trends, geographic range and habitat needs of species.

Many species groups including mammals, amphibians, birds, reef building corals and conifers have been comprehensively assessed. However, there is much more to be done and increased investment is needed urgently to build The IUCN Red List into a more complete ‘Barometer of Life’. To do this we need to increase the number of species assessed from the current count of 71,576 to at least 160,000 by 2020, improving the taxonomic coverage and thus providing a stronger base to enable better conservation and policy decisions.

Join us in celebrating the contribution that The IUCN Red List has made in guiding conservation for 50 years – spread the word, get involved, follow our news   @amazingspecies



News Releases

New nature reserve provides sanctuary for threatened Siberian Taimen

14 August 2014
Tugur River, Khabarovsk, Russia
Photo: Mikhail Skopets

The Wild Salmon Center (WSC), Khabarovsk Wildlife Foundation (KWF), and other partners have succeeded in winning approval for the creation of the Tugursky Nature Reserve, which will protect nearly 80,000 acres of critical habitat within the Tugur Watershed in the Russian Far East’s Khabarovsk Region. A regional decree was signed by the Governor of Khabarovsk to establish the Reserve.

The Tugursky Nature Reserve will safeguard key habitat for over 20 species of fish including Chum and Pink Salmon and the threatened Siberian Taimen as well as brown bears, foxes, Blakiston's Fish-owl, Osprey, Steller's and White-tailed Sea-eagles.

“This achievement would not be possible without the understanding and support of the local communities, including the Evenki indigenous people, the scientific community who helped develop justifications for this protected area, and the Wild Salmon Center and their long-standing commitment to salmon conservation,” says Alexander Kulikov of KWF.

The Tugur is a global stronghold for Siberian Taimen (Hucho taimen), which are a member of the trout and salmon family found in Russia and Asia. Siberian Taimen are the biggest of the taimen family with the largest recorded specimen weighing 231 pounds and measuring nearly seven feet. Tugur taimen can reach lengths of over six feet and weigh up to 170 pounds and are in a special category because they are one of only a few taimen populations that feed on adult Pacific salmon. The creation of the Reserve will also help protect strong salmon runs: the river currently supports a productive commercial fishery including a 170 metric ton chum salmon catch.

A large Siberian Taimen (Hucho taimen) in Mongolia. Photo: Clemens RatschanIn 2012 Siberian Taimen were assessed range-wide as Vulnerable on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. Over the years WSC has been serving an important role in supporting taimen conservation and assessment work, partnering closely with IUCN. “The establishment of freshwater protected areas was the most urgent conservation action needed to recover the species,” says Pete Rand, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Salmonid Specialist Group and Tugur River, Khabarovsk, Russia. Photo: Khabarovsk Wildlife FoundationSenior Conservation Biologist at WSC.

“Creation of the Tugursky Reserve is an example of successful cooperation between NGOs, government agencies, and municipalities of the Khabarovsk Region,” says Mariusz Wroblewski, WSC’s Western Pacific Program Director. “This accomplishment would not be Tugursky Regional Nature Reserve, Russia. Photo: Wild Salmon Centerpossible without the long-term commitment of some of our most dedicated supporters, including the Turner Foundation and the US Forest Service’s International Program.”

The Tugur River flows through the Tuguro-Chumikanskiy region of Khabarovskyi Krai (territory) and into the Sea of Okhotsk. The Tugur is also a sport fishing destination. The establishment of this new protected area will provide an opportunity to demonstrate new low-impact angling techniques, including the use of single, barbless hooks.

“I couldn’t think of a better place to create a protected area to safeguard this species,” says Zeb Hogan, ecologist and National Geographic Explorer. “There is virtually no human footprint there, offering the rare opportunity to effectively control habitat and fishery impacts that are pervasive throughout this region.”

The Wild Salmon Center has been working with partners, including the IUCN SSC Salmonid Specialist Group, to conserve key salmon ecosystems in the Russian Far East since the 1990s. In that time four protected areas have been established in addition to the Tugursky Nature Reserve - the Vostochny Refuge on Sakhalin Island, the Kol River Salmon Refuge on the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Koppi River Nature Preserve and Shantars Island National Park in Khabarovsk. Together they represent over two million acres of protected wild salmon ecosystems in key geographies throughout the Russian Far East.

For questions regarding taimen and other salmonids, contact Pete Rand, Chair of the IUCN SSC Salmonid Specialist Group and Senior Conservation Biologist at the Wild Salmon Center:

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Madagascar's reptiles: Highly threatened but not yet over the edge

12 August 2014
Tarzan’s Chameleon (Calumma tarzan)
Photo: Jörn Köhler

Reptiles are among Madagascar's most bewildering creatures but nearly 40% of them are facing an elevated risk of extinction according to The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. A study published today in the journal PLOS ONE says that successful management of Madagascar’s protected areas is crucial to the survival of many of these species.

In the paper, Extinction Risk and the Conservation of Madagascar’s Reptiles, the authors analysed patterns in the geographic distribution of the more than 370 reptile species studied and the threats facing them.

Madagascar is renowned for its unique animals and plants, most of which occur nowhere else on Earth. Few tourists leave the island without being astonished by a glimpse of its colourful chameleons, giant snakes and otherworldly leaf-tail geckos. However, most of Madagascar's wildlife is affected by habitat destruction.

Radiated Tortoise (Astrochelys radiata). Photo: Anders RhodinForest clearance is the main threat to the island's snakes and lizards – including chameleons and geckos. All Malagasy species of tortoises and freshwater turtles were classed as Critically Endangered. They occur at least partially inside protected areas, yet illegal collection of some species for food in Madagascar and the collection of others for the international pet trade have seen their populations decline over the years.

There are eight threatened reptile species that occur exclusively in sites without any current conservation management which adds to their extinction risk.

Whilst these results are alarming, the study provides new information that can better inform national planning and interventions to reduce the rate of habitat loss and limit threats, especially in protected areas. Trade monitoring and community engagement are identified as key complementary measures to safeguard these species.

The study also gives some reason for optimism. No extinctions have so far been documented, with almost all known species having been recorded in recent years in the wild, highlighting the importance of Madagascar’s new protected areas. Yet, threats exist even in many protected sites, highlighting the need for their improved management.

If Madagascar's nature reserves are efficiently protected and managed, there will be a good chance to save the majority of the island's reptiles from extinction.

For more information please contact:

Richard Jenkins
Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Chameleon Specialist Group

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Pacific countries look to next steps following call for action on coastal fisheries and bêche-de-mer

12 August 2014
Hon. Butulso David Tosul, Vanuatu’s Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, speaking at the coastal fisheries meeting
Photo: IUCN

The countries that participated in last week’s inaugural Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting have turned their focus to the next steps they will take to address the threats posed to food security, livelihoods and biodiversity.

The meeting, held in Nadi, Fiji, heard that overfishing, population growth, rapid urbanization, habitat degradation and climate charge are all leading to a ‘perfect storm’ for coastal fisheries in the Pacific Islands region, which means that many Pacific Island countries and territories will need to find alternative sources of protein for their population within the next two decades.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the Ministers representing Cook Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu signed an agreement calling for action on threats to bêche-de-mer and other coastal fisheries in the region.

Harvested bêche-de-mer drying in a Pacific Island village. Photo: Juergen Freund/WWFThe key elements of the agreement included implementing stronger coastal fisheries management regimes at a national level, harmonizing regional frameworks for coastal fisheries, and cooperating on management of bêche-de-mer resources. A regional initiative that helps achieve sustainable management of bêche-de-mer resources will be investigated, with willing countries working together to share information and data on buyers and identify market mechanisms to improve the value of the product to Pacific Island countries. Participating countries committed to hold this meeting in early 2015.

Papua New Guinea has offered to hold a follow-up ministerial meeting on coastal fisheries in 2015, where the participating countries will report on their individual and collective progress, as well as actions from the bêche-de-mer meeting and the regional review called for in that meeting. In addition, several countries will seek to improve coastal fishery management at the national level.

Vanuatu’s Minister for Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity, Hon. Butulso David Tosul, spoke about the national coastal fisheries workshop that will be held to continue the momentum from the meeting in Nadi.

“Without this meeting [Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting], we wouldn’t be thinking about coastal fisheries, which are so important for our people and their livelihoods. We will be working together to have a national workshop in Vanuatu on coastal fisheries specifically. Out of that workshop, I really want to develop our policies on coastal fisheries. Our specialists will help to develop that policy” said Minister Tosul.

Marshall Islands’ Minister of Transport & Communication, Hon. Thomas Heine, who was representing the Minister of Resources and Development at the meeting, also spoke about how the meeting helped to turn the focus onto coastal fisheries.

“In my opinion, we haven’t given our full attention to bêche-de-mer and coastal fisheries. We haven’t understood the positive and negative effects for our people. The outcomes of this meeting will give us guidelines for how we can manage bêche-de-mer. We have done some coastal fisheries studies – coastal fisheries are a necessity for our people, and we’re trying to help them. This forum has allowed us to meet with the experts, and it is great to have more information” said Minister Heine.

All the participating countries are now working towards delivering on the outcomes of the meeting.



Between a gill net and a hard place: more pressure on Vaquita

11 August 2014
Gear swaps for vaquita friendly nets continues to make progress
Photo: WWF

The world’s smallest cetacean, the Critically Endangered Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), is facing its most daunting challenge yet. Despite decades of conservation work to protect this porpoise in its limited habitat in the northern Gulf of California, Mexico, an unlikely but illegal trade in wildlife has arisen all to quickly. Chinese demand for the swim bladder of another threatened species – the Totoaba fish (Totoaba macdonaldi) is now accelerating the slide toward extinction for this species of porpoise.

This grave news comes after valuable progress had been made to mitigate the original threat caused by bycatch in shrimp and fin fish fisheries through working directly with local fishermen – conservation work which SOS continues to fund.

According to a report published by the International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita (CIRVA), latest estimates indicate there are fewer than 100 of these animals including 25 breeding adult females, meaning emergency measures are critical. The problem is that the gill nets used to catch totoaba are extremely effective in trapping vaquita as bycatch. Omar Vidal of WWF Mexico, explains, "if there is fishing for totoaba this September, the vaquita might disappear this year.”

The bladder of the totoaba is prized by Chinese chefs, who use it to make soups and other dishes. In fact recent reports estimate that one totoaba bladder can attract a $5,000 to $7,000 payoff in the United States, and more than $10,000 in Asia, making it a tempting prospect for fishermen. In 2013 alone, Mexican regulators seized illegal totoaba bladders worth an estimated $2.25 million according to a recent AP news article. The bladders are dried and smuggled out of Mexico by various routes including via the USA.

Rarely seen, vaquitas are disappearing before we can learn about them. Photo: WWFThe CIRVA report has made a number of recommendations concerning emergency conservation measures including extending a total ban on using, possessing or even transporting gill nets in the upper Sea of Cortez, around the vaquita’s limited habitat range, and perhaps even beyond it. These nets offer no exclusionary Despite progress to mitigate bycatch in shrimp and fin fish nets, illegal gill nets for totoaba now also threaten the vaquita. Photo: Cristian Faezi and Omar Vidaldevices to allow bycatch to escape. Meanwhile an SOS funded project, implemented by WWF and local partners, offers gear swaps for vaquita-friendly fishing equipment. As the totoaba fishery is illegal, any fishers engaged in it do so in utter secrecy and consequently do not participate in the Government endorsed gear swap implemented by WWF. Hence finding more alternative livelihood options for fishermen to consider is also deemed critical to resolving the crisis.

Meanwhile the prospect of establishing a vaquita captive breeding programme is not recognised as a viable option because of the difficulty and risk associated in capturing a sufficient number of vaquitas to operate such a programme.

As always, there is hope. With emergency action, interventions can be made quickly if properly funded using mechanisms such as SOS to channel funds: the science is in place. But first must come the coordination at the international and policy level, bringing together different stakeholders including international law enforcement and governmental bodies to enable sustainable solutions for the desert porpoise.

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Know the enemy: lessons from the labs on Galapagos

06 August 2014
Critically Endangered and endemic to Galapagos Islands
Photo: Michael Dvorak CDF

It may be a little unfair to wage war on a fly. But for SOS grantee and IUCN Member, Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF), Philornis downsi deserves it. This parasitic insect is in the unfortunate situation of being an invasive species – a relative newcomer to the Galapagos islands, and one whose own ecological niche is threatening the survival of endemic bird species. Particularly at risk are Darwin’s famed finches – especially the Critically Endangered mangrove finch (Camarhynchus heliobates).

According to CDF, invasive species are the single biggest threat to Galapagos biodiversity. And Philornis is one of the worst offenders. Laying its eggs in the nests of birds its larvae hatch at the same time as the chicks, feeding on baby birds, and often accounting for 100% nest mortality. In the case of the Mangrove Finch, with a population of less than 100 individuals, the entire species is perilously close to extinction. Urgent action is required and ground-breaking science will provide the solution.

Mangrove habitat also under threat. Photo: Charles Darwin FoundationIn tandem with recent successful efforts using “captive breeding” to release hand-reared adult finches into the mangroves, boosting wild populations, CDF and other collaborators are also working on control methods to counter the threat of Philornis. There are several options including: biological control using natural enemies, manipulating fly behaviour with pheromones, and introducing sterile males. This video describes and illustrates this important work in an engaging way Mangrove habitat makes field work even more challenging. Photo: CDFbut also underlines how complex wildlife conservation can be. To help protect the Galapagos’ finches, including the mangrove finch, conservationists must also understand the entire life cycle of this invasive fly species before a strategy can be devised to eliminate the threat posed by Philornis.

Wildlife conservation relies on people working together, bringing resources and energies together to solve complex issues over periods of time, often years. Thus sustained support for people Aerial view of mangrove finch habitat. Photo: CDFworking on the frontline is critical and of course communication is key to connecting supporters with those working in the field all focused on one common goal – a richer more diverse natural world.

So we hope this video brings you that little bit closer to understanding the efforts going in to save the Galapagos’ unique bird species from extinction.


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Challenges facing management of coastal fisheries and bêche-de-mer in the Pacific

05 August 2014
Pacific Islander diving for bêche-de-mer
Photo: Juergen Freund/WWF

The Pacific Islands region is reaching a critical point in the management of its coastal fisheries (including bêche-de-mer), as unsustainable fishing practices risk the region’s future sustenance, livelihoods and safety. Fisheries ministers from across the Pacific Islands region will discuss how to address these challenges at a three-day meeting this week in Nadi, Fiji.

Discussion on fisheries management in the Pacific Islands region tends to focus solely on oceanic tuna fisheries. For example, at the 45th Pacific Islands Forum meeting held in late-July, the region’s political leaders noted with concern the rapid decline in tuna stocks, and called for action to strengthen sustainable fisheries conservation to constrain and reduce tuna catches. While this is undoubtedly a critical issue, the management of coastal fisheries is often overlooked – but is equally in need of improved management.

Coastal fisheries are the lifeblood of coastal communities, underpinning subsistence and livelihoods across the region. Coastal fisheries provide an average of 50% of the protein needs of Pacific Island communities. Economically, the bêche-de-mer fishery is the second-largest in the region, second only to the tuna fishery, and provides up to USD 50 million per year to coastal communities by supplying the increasing demand for the product from Asian markets. Commercial fishing along the coast is also economically important, contributing approximately USD 165.7 million to communities each year.

But the flip-side of this income generation is exploitation and depletion of the natural resources, which compromises the region’s future food security and prosperity. Overfishing is depleting the abundance and availability of fish species. Harvesting of bêche-de-mer is often unregulated and unsafe, with people diving at depth without the appropriate diving equipment. This jeopardises the health of individuals – in extreme cases causing death.

Harvested bêche-de-mer drying in a Pacific Island village. Photo: Juergen Freund/WWFShifting to sustainable management of these resources will be the main topic of discussion at the Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting in Nadi, Fiji, from 6 to 8 August 2014. The meeting of fisheries ministers is being co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji, Tonga and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It aims to build collective will in the region to start managing these resources appropriately, so that they remain available for future generations.

“Our regional fisheries meetings have a Tuna focus – but our coastal communities depend on the inshore fishery which is under threat. Bêche-de-mer over-harvesting has Harvested bêche-de-mer drying in a Pacific Island village. Photo: Juergen Freund/WWFresulted in moratoriums in several Pacific countries, but it highlights the need for effective management of domestic and coastal fisheries. This summit is about taking actions and bringing high-level political consensus on coastal fisheries management” says Taholo Kami, IUCN Regional Director for Oceania.

This meeting comes at an opportune time, as it builds on momentum created by the recent announcement of funding for Pacific coastal fisheries. At the 45th Pacific Islands Forum meeting, the Australian Government announced it was providing AUD 9.6 million to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) to provide science-based technical support and information to Pacific Island countries for the sustainable management and conservation of their coastal fisheries.

Coastal fishery and bêche-de-mer resources need to be managed for the long-term benefit of Pacific Island communities, not just to meet short-term external demand. Action is required to balance the income generation from these resources in the present with the need to ensure these resources are available for future generations.

The Pacific Bêche-de-mer and the Future of Coastal Fisheries Meeting is facilitated by a partnership between the Government of New Zealand, SPC, University of the South Pacific (USP), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), IUCN Oceania, and the Marine and Coastal Biodiversity Management in Pacific Island Countries (MACBIO) project (funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) under its International Climate Initiative).

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True Grit: life on the trail of the rosewood poachers

30 July 2014
Chaloaw Kotud, Ranger

Marking World Ranger Day 31 July 2014, SOS – Save Our Species wishes to bring you to the frontline of conservation. Talking with Chaloaw Kotud, Enforcement Ranger Patrol Team Leader at Thap Lan National Park, Thailand we highlight the work of the unsung heroes worldwide who are charged with protecting our wild heritage.

But there is another layer to Chaloaw’s story. He and his team are literally risking their lives 15 days a month while on patrol to intercept and prevent gangs poaching Vulnerable Siamese Rosewood (Dalbergia cochinchinensis) – a species of tropical hardwood tree. In the $20 billion global industry of wildlife crime, plants are often overlooked, over-shadowed by elephant ivory and rhino horn news. Yet it too is a high stakes market, in which rangers play a critical role - rosewood can command prices of $50,000 per cubic metre as a raw material for the illicit luxury furniture trade and people are willing to die in the battle for this rare hardwood.

Forests of Thap Lan National Park. Photo: Eric Ash / FREELANDChaloaw describes life on the trail and what happens when they encounter poachers in the forests of Thap Lan National Park. “We use GPS and other technologies to plan and monitor our patrol routes. The men are trained for all aspects of forest navigation, patrol, survival, surveillance methods, arrest techniques and first aid. Furthermore, the rangers can carry weapons and ammunition, which must be registered at the ranger station before and after patrols with spent ammunition accounted for. But rangers must also be Rosewood poachers caught on camera traps. Photo: FREELANDstrong mentally, physically and demonstrate motivation.

But Chaloaw elaborates, “we can be in the field for days at a time, so simple things like making camp and sourcing water become strategic issues. Often we supplement our meals with wild-harvested forest foods such as mushrooms and fruits. Water is generally plentiful but in extreme circumstances we can get some from bamboo or even groundwater sources, if all else fails. Depending on the patrol area, we will camp using hammocks or we sleep on Training course participants detain suspects in "Search and Secure" exercise. Photo: Sayan Raksachart / FREELANDthe ground. Occasionally, we avoid camp fires and restrict the use of flashlights to prevent detection by poachers. You can imagine how tough that is during the colder months. The support of field provisions and other supplies from SOS for example, have been a huge morale boost - such continued support would really help us.

"When patrolling, we sometimes come across traces of poaching or the sounds of a chainsaw, for example. This is Rosewood seized during an enforcement patrol in Thap Lan National Park. Photo: FREELAND / DNPwhere the training kicks in. Generally patrols include five patrol rangers, including a team leader, but during some patrolling periods we are only three in a team - adaptability is key. Some of these poaching groups, however, are well equipped, armed and are sophisticated in their evasion tactics. So first, we evaluate the situation carefully to determine if we can make an arrest or return with backup if the poaching group is too large. Once the group’s location has been found and we are in a good position, we will conduct an ambush quickly to ensure that arrests are made safely. This element of surprise gives us an advantage and we’ve often been successful, but still some do manage to escape.

"For me personally, I’m confident in the abilities of our team especially when we’re supported by other agencies, which provides more personnel to conduct surveillance and arrests. I feel this support improves our team’s morale. We also have a strong belief in the importance of conserving the forest which spurs us on through the tough times".

The reader’s imagination might sparkle with hints of adventure and excitement, whereas in reality the daily grind of the job, the dangers and the long days require true grit: a determination to keep alert and focused on the task – in this case reducing poaching.

Every bit of support we can lend these and other rangers worldwide is valued and treasured, once we can reach out and connect with them. Sharing this story will help show appreciation for their efforts and bring our two worlds that bit closer. Please do share and visit the project page to learn more about Siamese Rosewood theft and how you can get involved with SOS.

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Rising murder toll of park rangers calls for tougher laws

29 July 2014
A field ranger keeps a close watch over a wild rhino to which he has been assigned in an African Game Park.
Photo: Chris Galliers © Game Rangers Association of Africa

With poachers responsible for more than half of ranger deaths over the past two years, IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and the International Ranger Federation (IRF) call for a toughened stance against wildlife crime globally, marking World Ranger Day celebrated across the globe on 31 July.

Fifty-six rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty in the last 12 months, 29 of whom have been killed by poachers, according to the latest information released today by the International Ranger Federation, which has been monitoring ranger deaths since 2000. Last year’s death toll has reached 102, with poachers and militia responsible for 69 of those deaths.

As more deaths are reported every week and as the figures represent only the confirmed deaths from some 35 countries that voluntarily report to the IRF, the actual number of rangers killed in the line of duty worldwide could be two to three times higher.

“Rangers are the guardians of our planet’s most precious natural assets and it’s unnerving to think that every day they go to work, their lives are at risk as a result of human greed and cruelty,” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “Without solid protection, proper law enforcement and a strong support network for those unsung heroes of conservation, our efforts to protect wildlife are a lost cause. All conservation action should start with supporting those that put their lives on the line to protect nature every day.”

Ranger on duty. Photo: World Ranger DayAlmost 60% of all rangers killed this year are from Asia, with the majority of those from India. India, Thailand, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have seen the sharpest increase in ranger deaths caused by poachers in recent years. Areas rich in elephants, rhinos, sandalwood, rosewood and other valuable resources are most affected. In DRC’s Virunga National Park alone, some 140 rangers have been killed in the last 15 years.

“We are extremely concerned that rangers continue to face Gorilla guard in Volcano National Park, Rwanda. Photo: Jim Thorsell, IUCNhigh levels of violence and are being murdered at an alarming pace,” says Sean Willmore, President of the International Ranger Federation. “Although the world is slowly awakening to their plight, we need to turn this awareness into meaningful action on the ground and make sure that the dangerous work rangers do to protect our valuable wildlife receives the support and respect it deserves. This still remains our challenge.”

The Federation and its charity arm The Thin Green Line Foundation offer equipment and training to rangers and support the families of those who have lost their lives, Rangers on an elephant in the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, India. Photo: Jim Thorsellhelping secure health care, education and employment for the widows and children left behind.

“The work of the International Ranger Federation has been crucial in providing rangers with the support that they need to do their job, which today is one of the most dangerous professions in the world,” says Trevor Sandwith, Director of the IUCN Global Protected Areas Programme. “We need to make sure that this support has a strong backing from governments and the international community, and that tougher, more effective laws are put in place to prevent any more tragedies from taking place. Efforts also need to be made to halt the problem at its source where it is being driven by consumer demand.”

In South Africa, which lost more than 1,000 rhinos in 2013, a rhino poacher has recently been sentenced to 77 years in prison — possibly the heaviest penalty handed to wildlife criminals to date.

The extent and impact of illegal wildlife trade and new approaches to combat it, including effective enforcement strategies to combat wildlife poaching and associated crime, will be discussed at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 taking place from 12 to 19 November in Sydney, Australia.

Supporting quotes:

"It is my great honour to acknowledge the brave and tireless work of the world’s park rangers [...]," says HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William. "Poaching has reached catastrophic levels and in this year when the World Parks Congress unites conservationists across the globe, as President of United for Wildlife, I will be encouraging as many people as possible to think of park rangers and the extraordinary work that they do."

"Wildlife crime has become a serious threat to the sovereignty and the stability of some of our countries," says President of Gabon and Patron of the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 Ali Bongo Ondimba. "Poachers do not hesitate to fire upon our park rangers. In some countries they are involved in a bush war as intense as any modern conflict."

Interesting facts:

• More than 1,000 rangers have been killed worldwide and many more injured over the last 10 years.

• In Africa a recorded number of 27 rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty in the last 12 months, with nearly 80% of them killed by poachers.

• In Thailand, more than 40 park rangers have been murdered in the last five years, with many more injured or left in a critical condition.

• A record number of 1,004 rhinos were killed in 2013 in South Africa, which is home to 83% of Africa’s rhinos. 343 rhino-related poaching arrests were made in the same year.

• So far in 2014, 558 rhinos have been lost in South Africa, at a rate of nearly three rhinos per day.

• Over 20,000 elephants were illegally killed in Africa in the past year alone.

• Rangers in Uganda, DRC and Rwanda have been directly responsible for an increase in the number of Mountain Gorillas, risking their lives to ensure the survival of this Critically Endangered species.

• Community Maasai Rangers in Kenya have helped increase the local lion population on their community lands from just 6 individuals to over 70.

A number of events are being held around the globe to mark World Ranger Day, including South Africa, Australia and Thailand. Messages of support to rangers have come through from around the world, including from HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William and Dr Jane Goodall.

An e-kit including messages from HRH The Duke of Cambridge Prince William and Dr Jane Goodall, and the Honour Roll of Rangers that have lost their lives this year is available here.

A series of prime-time debates at the IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, the World Leaders’ Dialogues, will include a session called “The Nature of Crime”, which will discuss effective enforcement strategies to combat wildlife poaching and associated crime. The Dialogue will bring together the President of Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba, the Australian Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon, Director of the Environment Investigation Agency Mary Rice and President of the IRF Sean Willmore, and will be moderated by the award-winning Kenyan journalist Jeff Koinange.

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

Ewa Magiera, IUCN Media Relations
m +41 76 505 33 78

Danielle Henry, Australian Media & Public Affairs Manager, IUCN World Parks Congress
m +61 4 77 718 738

Other languages:

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World Tiger Day - New hope despite the numbers?

29 July 2014
Community participation in patrolling Malaysian tiger habitat
Photo: Kae Kawanashi

It is a curious thing that there are more tigers in captivity than in the wild right now as we mark World Tiger Day. According to estimates as few as 3000 roam the wilds of the 13 tiger range countries of Asia. That’s a big area and a very low number. In fact we have lost 97% of all wild tigers in a little more than 100 years.

Such powerful predators, yet so vulnerable to extinction hemmed in by the inexorable expansion of human society. Populations are isolated from each other in pockets of habitat while exposed to heightened threats of poaching despite being listed on Appendix I of CITES which prohibits all commercial trade in tigers and tiger parts. Yet there is still hope while today allows us to highlight some of the reasons and actions that could help tiger population recover. From policy to action on the ground, effective conservation at such scale requires a coordinated effort and Global Tiger Day can rally many separate groups to one common cause.

The idea of celebrating a day for tigers was penned by the thirteen tiger range countries and their international partners just four years ago, in July 2010. At the Tiger Summit in 2010, St. Petersburg, where governments committed to doubling tiger numbers occurring within their territories by 2020, Global Tiger Day (GTD) was officially adopted (declaration available for download on this page). Then in 2013 in Kunming, China, the range countries marked the 3rd GTD by launching the new phase of implementation of their Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP) (also available for download on this page).

Tiger in the Sundarbans. Photo: Rubaiyat Mansur Mowgli & Elisabeth Fahrni MansurNot only is there progress at the policy level, but also through action on the ground. For example, in the past three years, SOS – Save Our Species has allocated almost $1 million USD in funding through three tiger conservation projects including two community focused projects in the Bangladesh Sundarbans and peninsular Malaysia. Meanwhile it is expected the transnational project will transform prospects for tiger conservation by investing in skills and technology to combat poaching. Please see the SMART Software will transform patrolling tiger habitat. Photo: WCSlinks on this page for more details on each of these projects.

Then in early 2014, building on the success of the SOS model to identify and select projects with maximum impact, IUCN in conjunction with KfW, the German development bank, announced a five-year Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme. This $27million USD Programme will benefit NGOs and conservation authorities from selected tiger range countries. Ultimately, the aim of the programme is to increase the number of tigers in the wild while improving the livelihoods of communities living in and close to their habitat - critical to ensuring sustainability of conservation efforts. It is expected projects will address human-tiger conflicts, habitat management, law enforcement and anti-poaching efforts in a variety of ways.

Thus, Global Tiger Day highlights the plight of the world’s remaining tigers, but also potential of what we can achieve by working together. The responsibility is all of ours. Mechanisms like SOS and the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme allow us to contribute and make a difference so that hopefully with each successive Global Tiger Day we may see the balance tipping back in favour of wild tigers once again.

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