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LATIN AMERICA / THE CARIBBEAN
Endangered species lists grows
Latinamerica Press
10/11/2007
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New list includes species on the path to extinction.

The planet’s biodiversity is rapidly deteriorating and the situation appears as though it will only become more severe, the World Conservation Union warned as it presented Sept. 12 its Red List of Threatened Species 2007.

The Red List — which lists the status of 41,415 plant and animal species — found that 16,306 are threatened with extinction, 188 more than in 2006. There are 10,930 species in South America, 2,053 in Mexico and Central America and 1,657 in the Caribbean, including French Guiana, Guyana and Suriname.

The World Conservation Union, an international network that promotes environmental conservation and biodiversity classifies species, according to their risk of extinction: extinct or extinct in the wild; critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction; near threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures; ;east Concern: species evaluated with a low risk of extinction; data deficient: no evaluation because of insufficient data.

Although the exact number of species that exist on the planet is unknown, most estimates are of 15 million, of which only 1.8 million are known. Latin America, because of its vast biodiversity accounts for a large part of those species.

This year, the total number of extinct species 795 and another 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation.

Human’s role
According to the organization, “People either directly or indirectly, are the main reason for most species’ decline. Habitat destruction and degradation continues to be the main cause of species’ decline, along with the all too familiar threats of introduced invasive species, unsustainable harvesting, over-hunting, pollution and disease. Climate change is increasingly recognized as a serious threat, which can magnify these dangers.”

For the first time, corals have been included on the list. The organization included 10 coral species from Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, with two of them in the critically endangered category. Also added were 74 seaweeds from the Galapagos Islands. “Ten species are listed as critically endangered, with six of those highlighted as possibly extinct.”

The cold water species are threatened by climate change and the rise in sea temperature that characterizes El Niño. The seaweeds are also indirectly affected by overfishing, which removes predators from the food chain, resulting in an increase of sea urchins and other herbivores that overgraze these algae,” said the organization.

The assessment in Mexico and North America resulted in 723 reptiles species added to the list, increasing the total to 738 reptiles in the region, of which 90 are on the brink of extinction.

Two fresh water turtle species from Mexico, the cuatro cienegas Slider and the ornate slider are listed on the endangered and vulnerable lists, respectively as both risk losing their habitats.

In Latin America, Mexico and Brazil have the highest number of threatened species with 840 and 725, respectively. Cuba tops the Caribbean’s list with 277 species.

The World Conservation Union urged efforts to protect biodiversity because not doing so would put in risk that 2010 goal to significantly reduce its lost. The mark was established in 2002, 10 years after the Biological Biodiversity Convention was adopted.

“This year’s Red List shows that the invaluable efforts made so far to protect species are not enough,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, director-general of the organization. “The rate of biodiversity loss is increasing and we need to act now to significantly reduce it and stave off this global extinction crisis. This can be done, but only with a concerted effort by all levels of society. ”

Environmentalists honored
Grethel Aguilar, who head’s the organization’s Mexico unit says that the “document is a generalized reflection for decision-makers, for individuals and the different organizations on the role in society and the loss of biodiversity, and the urgent need to change the unsustainable development model for one with a plan of economies and societies that show more solidarity, not just with other people but with the environment.”

On Sept. 13, the organization presented the “Environmental Torch,” a prize awarded to organizations who help form environmentally-friendly policies, to a Central American organization.

The Honduran nongovernmental Committee for the Defense and Development of Flora and Fauan for the Gulf of Fonseca, for its work protecting natural resources and sustainable development for fisherman in this body of water, which is shared by El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“This area holds a great variety of ecosystems and coastal wetlands; in addition to economic and social development for numerous communities that have settled around it,” the organization said.

Costa Rica’s Marine Tortoise Restoration Program was also honored for its work along with the Salvadoran Development and Environmental Research organization.


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