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African livelihoods at risk as species threatened: IUCN

Millions of Africans may lose a key source of livelihoods as a fifth of freshwater African species are threatened with extinction, the updated Red List of endangered species showed Thursday.

Scientists conducting a survey on 5,167 African freshwater species found that some 21 percent of species of fish, molluscs, crabs, dragonflies and aquatic plants were at risk of becoming extinct, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said in a statement.

As fish is the main source of protein and livelihoods for much of Africa's poorest people, the disappearance of fish species could have a devastating impact on the local population, the IUCN noted.

Some 7.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are thought to depend on fisheries.

"If we don't stem the loss of these species, not only will the richness of Africa's biodiversity be reduced forever, but millions of people will lose a key source of income, food and materials," warned William Darwall, manager of the IUCN's freshwater biodiversity unit.

In Lake Victoria, which stretches across Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya for instance, almost half - 45 percent - of 191 fish species studied were threatened with extinction or already extinct.

In Cameroon's Barombi Mbo crater-lake, 11 species of fish - some of which are key food sources, are highly threatened.

Jean-Christophe Vie, deputy head of the IUCN's species programme also noted the importance of freshwater ecosystems.

"Freshwaters provide a home for a disproportionate level of the world's biodiversity," he said.

"Although they cover just one percent of the planet's surface, freshwater ecosystems are actually home to around seven percent of all species," he added.