- The latest evaluation of the world’s birds has revealed that more species than ever are threatened with extinction and that additional conservation action is critical to reversing current declines, BirdLife International confirm.
An annual Red List – which takes into account population size, trends and range size for all 10,000 bird species worldwide – states that 1,221 species are considered threatened with extinction. These species are to be listed among the 2007 IUCN Red List.
According to the latest update, an additional 812 bird species are now considered near threatened, giving a total of 2,033 species that are urgent priorities for conservation action.
Conservationists are worried about the overall deterioration of the conservation status of the world’s birds since 1988, when the first comprehensive assessment of bird species was done.
More than a fifth (22%) of the planet’s birds is at increased risk of extinction.
This year’s update has highlighted deteriorating status of the world’s vultures. Five more species have been ‘uplisted’ to higher categories of concern as a result of numerous threats – habitat loss, conversion and degradation (which remains the principal threat to all the world’s birds, impacting on 86% of Globally Threatened species), fewer feeding opportunities (as a result of declining wild ungulate populations on which to scavenge) and poisoning by the veterinary drug diclofenac – a factor behind rapid population declines in vultures across Asia in recent years.
Bird species restricted to oceanic islands continue to be among the world’s most threatened birds due mainly to the introduction of alien invasive species.
“Conservation works - we just need much more of it in order to turn back the tide of impending extinctions,” Dr Stuart Butchart, BirdLife's Global Species Programme Coordinator said.
However, there are signs of encouragement that conservation actions are put in place and that species have shown signs of recovery. For instance, Mauritius Parakeet Psittacula eques, which survives in south-west Mauritius, has been downlisted due to a highly successful recovery programme that has included release of captive-bred birds, measures to control predators and the provision of artificial nest sites.
Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, conservation NGO that has worked closely with the Mauritian government, has led the programme.
Also, Spectacled Petrel Procellaria conspicillata has been downlisted from critically endangered to vulnerable after an increase from an estimated 1,000 pairs in the 1980s to some 38,000 pairs in 2004. This population increase is part of a long-term recovery largely in response to removal of pigs from its only breeding site, Inaccessible Island, Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, and has occurred despite losses to long-line fisheries.
“There are two sides to this story: whilst conservation efforts have been successful in recovering some species, there are more and more species slipping towards extinction. The challenge becomes greater each year,” Dr Stuart Butchart concurred.
“But where efforts, resources and political will are directed, species can recover. Conservation works,” he said. “We just need much more of it in order to turn back the tide of impending extinctions.”
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