Total of endangered species grows by 121 in two years

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The Independent Online

More than 100 species, ranging from a small water mouse to a wild camel, have been added to the list of the world's most endangered species.

More than 100 species, ranging from a small water mouse to a wild camel, have been added to the list of the world's most endangered species.

The Red List of Threatened Species, compiled by the World Conservation Union and published yesterday, gives details of 11,167 animals and plants that are known to be at risk of extinction, an increase of 121 since the list was last published in 2000.

The reassessment has led to some good news. A small number of species thought to have disappeared, such as the Lord Howe Island stick insect and Bavarian pine vole, have been rediscovered since 2000.

Among those added to the list is the saiga, a nomadic antelope inhabiting the steppes and semi-arid deserts of central Asia. Poaching for meat and the export of the antelope's horns for traditional medicine have led to a drastic decline in the species, which once numbered more than one million animals but is now thought to consist of fewer than 50,000. Another animal newly classified is the wild Bactrian camel from China and Mongolia, which has been hunted because it competes with domestic camels for water and grazing.

Scientists warn that the Iberian lynx, which has also been added to the list, could be the first wild cat to become extinct in more than 2,000 years, because of the perilous state of its breeding population. Less than half of the 1990s population of about 1,200 lynx survive, mostly confined to scattered groups in the south-west of Spain and Portugal.

A single specimen of the Ethiopian water mouse, found near the source of the Little Abbai river, a tributary of the Blue Nile, has led to it being included on the Red List for the first time.

On the Indian subcontinent, scientists believe the slender-billed vulture and the Indian vulture are in danger because of disease, poisoning, pesticides and changes to the way dead livestock is disposed of.

Scientists assessed more than 400 species of animals and plants. To be on the Red List they must be critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction.

Back from extinction

Lord Howe Island stick insect:

This insect, right, was considered to have become extinct around 1920 after the introduction of rats to Lord Howe Island, which is 340 miles off the eastern coast of Australia. Last year, though, specimens were rediscovered on Balls Pyramid, a rocky outcrop 14 miles from the island, which supports fewer than 50 mature individuals.

Bavarian pine vole:

Only one location in Garmisch-Partenkirchen was known to be home to this rodent, which disappeared in 1962. In 2000, scientists found a small breeding population in northern Tyrol, just across the German-Austrian border from Bavaria.

Marbled toadlet:

This amphibian was known from only one specimen collected in a remote area of the Kimberley region of Western Australia more than 150 years ago. It had not been recorded since and was classified as extinct in 1996, but scientists are re-examining the original specimen to see whether it is an unusual individual of an existing species.