Humans blamed as extinction looms for more species

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Extinction is coming closer for a growing number of wildlife species, according to the latest Red List - the global status assessment of rare animals and plants - which was issued yesterday.

Extinction is coming closer for a growing number of wildlife species, according to the latest Red List - the global status assessment of rare animals and plants - which was issued yesterday.

In four years since the last Red List, the number of species in the "critically endangered" category has risen sharply, with mammals up from 169 to 180 and birds from 168 to 182. The number of critically endangered primates - such as apes, monkeys and lemurs - has risen from 13 to 19. The Independent this week highlighted the threat facing the four great ape species; gorilla, orang-utan, chimpanzee and bonobo (pygmy chimpanzee).

The list is produced by the IUCN, the Swiss-based World Conservation Union. The Red List 2000 shows clearly the effects of human consumption in less developed parts of the world, with threatened species of albatross rising in four years from three to 16, and of penguin species doubling from five to 10 - a result of growing threats to the marine environment. Critically endangered freshwater turtle species, heavily exploited for food and medicinal use in Asia, grew from 10 to 24. A total of 11,046 species of plants and animals is threatened, in almost all cases by human activities, including one in four mammal and one in eight bird species.

The number of threatened animal species has increased from 5,205 to 5,435. A total of 5,611 threatened plants are listed but, as only 4 per cent ofplants were evaluated, the true percentage is much higher.

Indonesia, India, Brazil and China are among countries where mammals and birds are most threatened. Plant species are falling rapidly in SouthAmerica, Central and West Africa, and South-east Asia.

Maritta von Bieberstein Koch-Weser, the IUCN director general, said: "The fact that the number of critically endangered species has increased was a jolting surprise ... These findings should be taken very seriously."

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