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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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