What are endangered species

The red list of threatened animal and plant species

There is no end in sight to the downward spiral. In its updated Red List of March 25, 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) now records almost 37,500 animal and plant species as threatened. That's more than ever before.

Two of the big losers on the current Red List are the African forest elephant and the African savanna elephant. The forest elephant, which was listed as a separate species for the first time and assessed independently, is thereforethreatened with extinction". The African savannah elephant is now considered to be "critically endangered". So far, both have been considered two subspecies of the African elephant, which the IUCN has previously rated as "Endangered". The Forest elephant populations have collapsed by more than 86 percent within 31 yearsthat of the larger Savannah elephants dwindled by at least 60 percent within 50 years. Many of the pachyderms have fallen victim to poaching, especially since 2008, but the loss and fragmentation of their habitats is also a problem for them. If humans spread more and more in the ancestral habitats of the animals, they also come more and more often into conflicts with the large herbivores, with often fatal results for humans or elephants. Some stable or even growing populations prove that long-term, integrative nature conservation measures are also successful.

  • African elephants

    While the savannah elephant is found in many sub-Saharan countries in Africa and some - not all - of its populations are stable or even increasing, the forest elephant lives exclusively in the rainforests of central and west Africa. Continue reading...

Update of the Red List (July 2020):

"It is the greatest extinction of species since the disappearance of the dinosaurs," said Christoph Heinrich, Director of Nature Conservation at WWF Germany, on the new figures.The European hamster, among others, is now considered critically endangered worldwide. Likewise the Atlantic right whale, a right whale, and several species of lemurs. “We humans play in the worldwideSpecies gau a dangerous dual role. On the one hand, we are destroying species' habitats and thus fueling species extinction. On the other hand, biodiversity is the basis for functioning ecosystems, on which we humans ultimately depend, ”says Heinrich. “An intact and diverse nature gives us food, clean water and other raw materials, regulates the climate and acts as aBulwark against disease and pandemics. The destruction of nature is primarily at the expense of billions of people in the global south; their lives often depend directly on the use of natural resources. "

There used to be millions of hamsters - from Alsace to Russia. Now the little rodent is threatened with extinction. The devastating decline in western Europe was well known, and the European hamster is strictly protected. But researchers had suspected that there were still numerous hamsters in Eastern Europe and Russia. A fallacy. "If nothing changes, the European hamster will become extinct in the next 30 years," according to the IUCN report. European hamsters reproduce less successfully today. A female only has an average of 5 to 6 cubs a year, in the past it was more than 20.Possible causes: Agricultural monocultures, changed cultivation and harvesting methods, industrialization, global warming and light pollution in densely populated areas.

Lemurs are only found on Madagascar and offshore islands and were once widespread there. Today it is much quieter in the treetops of the forests of the East African island state.Almost a third of all lemur species are only one step away from extinctionsuch as Madame Berthe's mouse lemur, the smallest species of primate in the world. Without a tail, the animal is only about ten centimeters long and weighs about 30 grams. Of the 107 species of lemur still alive today, 103 are now considered threatened. Man is to blameDeforestation, extensive agriculture and hunting.

Example primates on the African mainland

But not only the lemurs in Madagascar are fighting for survival - the IUCN has completed the reassessment of all African primate species with the current Red List and has come to the conclusion that more than half of all primate species in the rest of Africa are threatened (54 of 103 species) . Including all 17 species of the red colobus monkey, which are the most endangered species of monkey in Africa. Many of themillegal bushmeat hunting and the constant loss of their habitat is also pushing the endangered colobus monkey further to the abyss of extinction.Its populations have declined by more than half in the last 30 years.

At the end of 2018, it is estimated that there were only fewer than 250 adult northern right whales (Eubalaena glacialis), a species of right whale that used to be hunted on a massive scale. Despite the whaling ban, their number has been falling continuously for years.They reproduce less often, collide with ships and get caught in fishing nets and lines. Higher ocean temperatures, fueled by the global climate crisis, also drive many prey animals north into the St. Lawrence Gulf in summer. The whales follow and get tangled in lines or are injured by boats. The species has now been upgraded to "Critically Endangered" on the IUCN Red List.

European hamsters, lemurs and the northern Atlantic right whale are just examples of the ever faster species decline. B.The decline of many species has accelerated further in recent years. "The global species disaster," says Christoph Heinrich from WWF, "does not only take place in distant rainforests or marine regions, but also on your own doorstep."The hamster's struggle for survival is representative of the thousands of native animals and plants that suffer from the consequences of intensive agriculture. Without an ecological restart in national and European agricultural policy, there is a threat of species collapse in German fields and meadows.

EU Council Presidency as an opportunity

But it is not too late. Germany can now set the course to stop further species extinction. "As part of its EU Council Presidency, Germany must ensure that 30 percent of the EU's land and sea area will receive protection status within the next decade and that 15 percent of the EU's area will be restored to destroyed nature," said Heinrich.

At the UN biodiversity summit in 2021, the EU, together with many other countries, could make this goal the global benchmark. For the new biodiversity strategy up to 2030, the WWF demands that the heads of state and government commit to concrete measures, mor to do more to protect biodiversity by, among other things, creating better and more effective laws, promote the sustainable production of food, reduce environmentally harmful subsidies and increase the funding of protected areas.

What is the IUCN Red List?

TheRed List is an indicator of the state of biodiversity. The Red List is published at regular intervals by theWorld Conservation Union IUCN.

For the creation of red lists, experts evaluate all relevant and accessible data on a scientific basis. The presentation in hazard categories is the most condensed form of scientific analysis.

In addition to the international one, there are also national red lists in other countries. In Germany exist alongside thenationwide red list even individual lists of the federal states. In addition, plants, animals, biotope types and plant communities are kept in separate lists in Germany. Detailed information can be found atRed List Center of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. In total, more than 30,000 species of animals, plants and fungi have been assessed in Germany so far. Over a quarter of them are considered threatened or extinct. According to this, 33% of vertebrates, 34% of invertebrates, 31% of plants and 20% of fungi are endangered in Germany.

Countless species die out every year

TheLoss of biodiversity represents one of the worst catastrophes worldwide today. Around two million animal and plant species have been described so far. But there are said to be eight million species on earth, maybe more. Countless of them disappear every year.

The latest surveys assume that theThe extinction rate due to human influences is now around a factor of 100 - 1000 has increased over the natural rate. The most important global threats to biodiversity include habitat loss and the massive overexploitation of natural resources such as overfishing or poaching. In addition, there is environmental pollution, the climate crisis and the displacement of native flora and fauna by introduced species.

Humans are also threatened by it

The extinction of a species is irreversible and creates incalculable risks. In addition to their intrinsic value, animals and plants have a function in the ecosystem. If this is mixed up by the extinction of species, this will also have consequences for humans. In large parts of the world, food, water and medicine are directly dependent on a functioning and healthy ecosystem with a high level of biodiversity. If this ecosystem is destroyed by the loss of species, the livelihoods of a large part of the world's population are in immediate danger.

Some winners and losers from 2018

  • IUCN: How the Red List Works

    How does a species get on the red list? How do you know how threatened a species really is? And who keeps the Red List up to date? Continue reading ...