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article imageTiny toad gone for good; Red List of endangered species grows

By Stephanie Dearing     Nov 8, 2009 in Environment
The list of the world's endangered species has grown since last year. Of nearly 50,000 analyzed, 15,000 species, both plant and animal, are at risk of extinction. Sadly the world lost a tiny little toad.
There have now been 875 known species gone the way of the dodo, 66 of those were wild species. To break down the current numbers of at-risk species into bite-sized nuggets of information, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) has crunched the numbers for us: "21 percent of all known mammals, 30 percent of all known amphibians, 12 percent of all known birds, and 28 percent of reptiles, 37 percent of freshwater fishes, 70 percent of plants, 35 percent of invertebrates assessed so far are under threat.." The risks of extinction are too high to be comfortable for anybody, and the level of risk has grown since 2008. The IUCN looked at 47,667 species. IUCN's Biodiversity Group Director, Jane Smart said “The scientific evidence of a serious extinction crisis is mounting. January sees the launch of the International Year of Biodiversity. The latest analysis of the IUCN Red List shows the 2010 target to reduce biodiversity loss will not be met. It’s time for Governments to start getting serious about saving species and make sure it’s high on their agendas for next year, as we’re rapidly running out of time.”
The Manager of the Red List Unit, Craig Hilton-Taylor, said "These results are just the tip of the iceberg. We have only managed to assess 47,663 species so far; there are many more millions out there which could be under serious threat. We do, however, know from experience that conservation action works so let’s not wait until it’s too late and start saving our species now.”
Tanzania is the country that has the dubious distinction of seeing another species become extinct. The Kihansi Spray Toad was rendered extinct by a dam which destroyed the toad's habitat. The remainder of the toads were downed by a fungus. The Red List release said the toad "... was only known from the Kihansi Falls in Tanzania, where it was formerly abundant with a population of at least 17,000. Its decline is due to the construction of a dam upstream of the Kihansi Falls that removed 90 percent of the original water flow to the gorge. The fungal disease chytridiomycosis was probably responsible for the toad’s final population crash."
The dam was a hydroelectric project. The story of the extinction of the toad is a cautionary one for the rest of the world, because it was no surprise that the species was dying. The hydroelectric project was conceived in the 1980s and construction began in the 1990s. Certainly the intention of the project was only to improve the quality of life for a country that is blighted with poverty; the project was not intended to cause the loss of life.
Kihansi Spray Toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis)
Kihansi Spray Toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis), found only in Tanzania once in the thousands, now extinct because of a hydroelectric project that stopped the flow of water the species relied upon. Photo courtesy of the African Rain Forest Conservancy.
African Rain Forest Conservancy
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is "the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. From its small beginning, the IUCN Red List has grown in size and complexity and now plays an increasingly prominent role in guiding conservation activities of governments, NGOs and scientific institutions." Every year, more species are analyzed. The 2008 analysis saw more freshwater species analyzed, and the IUCN said that this last year's analysis has shown that the world's fresh water resources should be conserved and protected. The organization hopes to expand the list of species it watches to 50 to 60,000 by 2010.
Canada has 72 species identified as endangered.
More about Red list, Endangered species, Extinction, Disappearing species, Kihansi spray toad
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