LONDON (CNN) — Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network.
The subspecies of the black rhino — which is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — was last seen in western Africa in 2006.
The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction” while Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand” due to continued poaching and lack of conservation.
“In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement.
“These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction,” Stuart added.
The IUCN points to conservation efforts which have paid off for the southern white rhino subspecies which have seen populations rise from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century to an estimated wild population of 20,000 today.
Another success can be seen with the Przewalski’s Horse which was listed as “extinct in the wild” in 1996 but now, thanks to a captive breeding program, has an estimated population of 300.
The latest update to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species reviews more than 60,000 species, concluding that 25% of mammals on the list are at risk of extinction.
Many plants are also under threat, say the IUCN.
Populations of Chinese fir, a conifer which was once widespread throughout China and Vietnam, is being threatened by the expansion of intensive agriculture according to the IUCN.
A type of yew tree (taxus contorta) found in Asia which is used to produce Taxol (a chemotherapy drug) has been reclassified from “vulnerable” to “endangered” on the IUCN Red List, as has the Coco de Mer — a palm tree found in the Seychelles islands — which is at risk from fires and illegal harvesting of its kernels.
Recent studies of 79 tropical plants in the Indian Ocean archipelago revealed that more than three quarters of them were at risk of extinction.
In the oceans, the IUCN reports that five out of eight tuna species are now “threatened” or “near threatened,” while 26 recently-discovered amphibians have been added to the Red List including the “blessed poison frog” (classified as vulnerable) while the “summers’ poison frog” is endangered.
“This update offers both good and bad news on the status of many species around the world,” Jane Smart, director of IUCN’s global species program said in a statement.
“We have the knowledge that conservation works if executed in a timely manner, yet, without strong political will in combination with targeted efforts and resources, the wonders of nature and the services it provides can be lost forever.”
Proposal to include more countries in a pledge not to sell ivory stockpiles before 2016 seen as legally flawed. Efforts to curb the sale of ivory and rhino horns were voted down on Thursday at an international wildlife summit in Bangkok.
At the 178-nation Convention in Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting, Burkina Faso and Kenya cited the “merciless slaughter of elephants” in their attempt to extend to a wider group of nations a pledge from some countries not to sell ivory stockpiles before 2016. But the proposal was seen as legally flawed by many delegates and failed to get support.
But Tom Milliken, head of the elephant and rhino team at wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic, , said he was more optimistic than ever that tough action would still be taken. “This time people are listening because everything is pointing in the same direction: poaching is up to a record high, as is illegal ivory trading and elephants seem to be down,” he said. About 25,000 elephants were killed by poachers in 2012.
At the Cites talks, 19 nations face bans on all wildlife trade unless they crack down on the poaching, smuggling or sale of illegal ivory. The summit is also considering compulsory forensic testing of seized tusks, so the criminal chain can be traced and compulsory reporting of stockpiles of ivory, to prevent corruption or thefts.
Separately, Kenya attempted to prevent the export of trophy-hunted rhino horns from South Africa. Vietnamese and east European gangs use the practice as a cover to feed the illegal Vietnamese market with the 1,000 horns a year it is demanding. But Milliken said that South Africa had already put an end to the “pseudo-hunting”. There are 20,000 white rhinos at present, he said, and despite more than 600 being poached in 2012, the population is rising.
Milliken said: “It is probably a good idea to keep these [trophy-hunting] incentives for private wildlife reserve owners at a time when they are having to spend more on protection from poachers.” He said, in contrast, Vietnam was doing extremely little to tackle rhino sales.
The Cites meeting did, however, unanimously raise the protection of the west African manatee to the highest level, overriding advice from officials that “scant” scientific data did not support the move.
The slow-moving creature, which can measure up to 4.5m long and weigh 350kg, is found in the coastal lagoons and rivers of 21 states, and can reach as far inland as Mali, Niger and Chad.
Illegal kills can raise $4,500 per animal and less than 10,000 remain. They are hunted for meat and oil, killed as by bycatch by fishermen and also suffer as their habitat is destroyed by mangrove harvesting, pollution and dams. The Cites conference also bid farewell to a series of extinct animals by removing them from protection lists, including Australia’s dusky flying fox, crescent nail-tail wallaby, buff-nosed rat-kangaroo and the pig-footed- and rabbit-eared bandicoots.
- Cites: bid to curb sale of ivory and rhino horn voted down (guardian.co.uk)
- The perfect poacher’s storm threatening endangered species (itv.com)
- After Failure of Legal Ivory, Trade in Rhino Horn Would Be a Disaster (bushwarriors.org)
- WWF Reaction to Thai Prime Minister Announcement on Ivory Trade (prweb.com)
- Leonardo DiCaprio Joins WWF to Launch “Hands Off My Parts” Initiative to Stop Wildlife Crime (prweb.com)
- WWF names ‘demand countries’ for ivory and rhino horn (itv.com)
- Shoots, kills and trades in animal parts (thehindu.com)
- ‘Extinction crisis’ focus for CITES (bbc.co.uk)