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Hunting and overfishing put rhino rays and seven species of primate at 'risk of extinction’

The i logo The i 18/07/2019 Tom Bawden
Roloway monkey Roloway monkey

Two families of long-nosed Rhino Rays and seven species of primate are facing extinction from hunting and overfishing, according to the latest official assessment of the world's most endangered animals.

The rays and monkeys are among 6,127 species, living everywhere from the top of trees to the bottom of the oceans, that have been added to the Red List of animals officially in danger of becoming globally extinct.

Video: 1 million species threatened with extinction by humans (CNN)

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Meanwhile, not a single species recorded an improvement in their status since the previous assessment last year.

"This update clearly shows how much humans around the world are overexploiting wildlife. We must wake up to the fact that conserving nature’s diversity is in our interest,” said Grethel Aguilar, director general of the IUCN, which carried out the assessment.

Extinction threat

a colorful bird perched on a tree branch: The kakariki karaka, one of the rarest birds in New Zealand, has had its best breeding season in decades, raising hopes for the survival of the species (Picture: Department of Conservation New Zealand) © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd The kakariki karaka, one of the rarest birds in New Zealand, has had its best breeding season in decades, raising hopes for the survival of the species (Picture: Department of Conservation New Zealand)

Climate change, air pollution, disease, invasive species, poaching, overfishing, pesticides and habit loss from farming and urban development are all taking their toll on the animals, researchers said.

More than 28,000 species are now officially at risk of extinction, although conservationists say the true number is likely to be many times higher because the ICUN has so far only assessed around 105,000 of the estimated millions of animal species on the planet.

Gallery: Close to extinction: Critically endangered animals (Photo Services)

In May, the United Nations estimated that as many as a million plant and animal species faced extinction.

The IUCN reports are hugely valuable, however, because they identify specific species at risk and give a broader indication of the proportion of species under threat.

“Loss of species and climate change are the two great challenges facing humanity this century. The Red List addresses both, by letting us know the extinction risk faced by all species, including climate change, in that assessment," said Lee Hannah, of the Conservation International charity in the United States.

Rhino Rays

a fish swimming under water: The whitespotted wedgefish (Matthew D Potenski) © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd The whitespotted wedgefish (Matthew D Potenski)

Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes, collectively known as Rhino Rays because of their elongated snouts, are now the most imperilled marine fish families in the world, with all but one of the 16 species assessed as critically endangered, the Red List found.

The Rhino Rays are victims of overfishing, much of which is accidental as they get caught accidentally as 'bycatch' by a growing unregulated coastal fishing industry. Rhino Ray meat is sold locally, while the fins used in soup.

Closely related to sharks, some species grow up to three metres long. They live in shallow waters from the Indian and West Pacific Oceans to the East Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.

Primates under threat

Red-Capped Mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus torquatas) © atosf Red-Capped Mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus torquatas)

West African primates are also among the worst endangered species on the planet.

"The combination of forest destruction and heavy bushmeat hunting – probably the highest level of this latter threat anywhere in the word – has pushed a number of primate species there to the brink of extinction,” said Russ Mittermeier, also of the IUCN.

The threatened primates added to the Red List include The Andean Night Monkey, which is endemic to the Peruvian Andes and the Red-capped Mangabey, which lives in a wide band of forest along the Atlantic coast of West Africa, from western Nigeria to the Gabon-Congo border.

 OTHER SPECIES THAT HAVE BEEN ADDED TO THE RED LIST

Northern birch mouse Northern birch mouse Hungarian Birch Mouse (Sicista trizona) - The Hungarian Birch Mouse lives in central Romania and Hungary. It prefers undisturbed areas, where it inhabits islands of tall herbaceous vegetation that remain in pastures extensively grazed by cattle or horses. These habitats are often ploughed up by local farmers or overgrazed by sheep. Before 1950, these birch mice were widespread and probably common in the lowlands of the Carpathian basin, but the species is now extinct in 98 per cent of its former range due to increased use of rodenticides, loss of undisturbed areas, and increased reliance on mechanical activities for agricultural management.

Lake Oku Puddle Frog (Phrynobatrachus njiomock) – This species is only known from the Kilum-Ijim Forest, including the shores of Lake Oku, on Mount Oku in Cameroon - and it may already be extinct. It used to be the most abundant frog at Lake Oku, however after the emergence of the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis - Bd) in 2008 on Mount Oku, the population declined. Lake Oku Puddle Frog has not been seen since 2010 despite monthly monitoring at Lake Oku and the Oku summit. It is thought that chytridiomycosis is the main cause of this frog’s rapid decline. Its montane forest habitat is also declining due to livestock grazing and agricultural expansion.

Menabe Monkey Grasshopper (Tetefortina lohenae) - This rare grasshopper is endemic to the western coastal area of Madagascar (Menabe region). As the species is flightless, it has limited ability to disperse. The major threat to this species is deforestation, resulting from slash-and-burn agriculture. Between 2007 and 2017, around 34 per cent of forest habitat within the range of this species was lost. Deforestation has accelerated dramatically in recent years with an increase from 0.3 per cent in 2001 to 10.5 per cent in 2016. Complete loss of the remaining forest is expected by 2027 if deforestation continues. Based on this, the population of Menabe Monkey Grasshopper is expected to decline by at least 90 per cent decline by 2027.

Allophylus samoritourei – This West African evergreen tree grows up to 18 m tall, with orange-red fruits when ripe. The bark from this tree is used medicinally for treating fevers and epilepsy. It is known from only 180 mature individuals in Guinea and it is estimated to have less than 250 mature individuals throughout its entire range. The species is highly threatened by mining, agriculture, and urban expansion, and its habitat is declining because of these threats. Although it is known to grow in a few protected areas, various threats have been reported to occur inside these areas. Conversion of habitat to other land uses will further directly affect population size and it is suspected that its population will suffer a decline of 25 per cent or more within the next 100 years if rates of deforestation and current threats continue.

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