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Temperate slipper orchids, lemurs and the Japanese Eel near extinction - IUCN

11/06/2014 11:23

Almost 80% of temperate slipper orchids and over 90% of lemurs are threatened with extinction, according to the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™. The newly assessed Japanese Eel has been listed as Endangered, while the Brazilian Three-banded Armadillo – the mascot of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – remains Vulnerable as its population continues to decline.


The IUCN Red List, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, now includes 73,686 assessed species, of which 22,103 are threatened with extinction.


Over the last fifty years, The IUCN Red List has guided conservation work – very little positive action happens without the Red List as a starting point," says IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefèvre. “This is no small achievement but so much more needs to be done. We need to continue to expand our knowledge about the world’s species to better understand the challenges we face, set global conservation priorities and mobilise concrete action to halt the biodiversity crisis.


The global assessment of temperate slipper orchids, occurring in North America, Europe and temperate Asia, reveals that 79% of these popular ornamental plants are threatened with extinction. This is mainly due to habitat destruction and over-collection of wild species for local and international trade, despite the fact that international trade in all species of slipper orchids is regulated. Temperate slipper orchids are among the best-known and most widely illustrated of all flowering plants, with characteristic slipper-shaped flowers which trap insects to ensure pollination.


What was most surprising about this assessment was the degree of threat to these orchids,” says Hassan Rankou, the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s (SSC) Red List Authority for the Orchid Specialist Group, which is hosted by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. “Slipper orchids are popular in the multimillion-dollar horticultural industry. Although the industry is sustained by cultivated stock, conservation of wild species is vital for its future.


The Endangered Freckled Cypripedium (Cypripedium lentiginosum) has fewer than 100 individuals remaining in south-eastern Yunnan in China and Ha Giang province of Viet Nam. Its decline is due to over-collection and deforestation. Also Endangered, Dickinson's Cypripedium (C. dickinsonianum) is known only from a few scattered populations in Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Its open forest habitat is being cleared for agriculture and the lopping of trees is changing the environmental conditions which allow orchids and other under-storey plants to thrive.


This IUCN Red List update confirms reports that 94% of lemurs are threatened with extinction. Of the 101 surviving lemur species, 22 are Critically Endangered, including the largest of the living lemurs the Large-bodied Indri (Indri indri). A total of 48 are Endangered, such as the world’s smallest primate, Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae), and 20 are Vulnerable. This makes them one of the most threatened groups of vertebrates on Earth.


Lemurs are threatened by destruction of their tropical forest habitat in Madagascar, where political uncertainty and increasing poverty levels have accelerated illegal logging. Hunting of these animals for food has also emerged as a serious issue.

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