Geneva The nomadic Saiga antelope could soon be taking its last leap, the wild Bactrian camel its last drink and the Ethiopian water mouse its last dip. All are on the brink of extinction, conservationists said today.
The freshwater gastropod mollusk has already made its salty tearful goodbyes in the last two years, joining the long-departed Dodo bird among the ranks of vanished creatures.
There are 11,167 other plants and animals threatened with extinction, according to the World Conservation Union's 2002 Red List of Threatened Species, an increase of 121 since 2000.
The Red List, produced by a network of some 7,000 species experts working in almost every country in the world, found that 811 species have disappeared over the last 500 years, some permanently, while others exist only in artificial settings, such as zoos.
Five species have been added to the Extinct List over the last two years, said the union.
Besides the mollusk they are two hippo species, last seen in 1500, the sea mink, unseen since 1860, and Reunion Island sheldgeese, last sighted around 1710.
"It can take so long because we need scientific proof and records that the species has gone extinct and that there are no subspecies alive," said union spokeswoman Xenya Cherny. "That can take a long time."
Conservationists think the current extinction rate is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than it should be under natural conditions. The primary reason: humans. Everything from expanding cities to deforestation, agriculture and fishing pose a significant threat to the planet's biodiversity, the union says.