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Archive for Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Endangered species list tops 12,000 plants, animals

November 19, 2003

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— The Galapagos snail -- once collected by Charles Darwin -- and South Africa's riverine rabbit are among 12,259 known plants and animal species facing extinction, according to the 2003 Red List of Threatened Species released Tuesday.

The snail and the rabbit, with fewer than 250 breeding pairs, were reclassified from endangered to critically endangered -- one step before being considered "extinct in the wild."

The list by the World Conservation Union also revealed the variegated spider monkey and the Mekong giant catfish were fighting for their future.

The turtle-like Seychelles fresh water terrapin lost its battle this year and is gone forever, according to the group, which is known as IUCN.

Two Hawaiian plants -- the flowering Clermonteia peleane and the palm-like Cyanea superba -- are now extinct in the wild. Eight other species were added to the extinct in the wild list, including an earthworm from Tasmania, Australia, last seen in 1971.

The group found 12,259 known plants and animal species that fell into the Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable categories.

Last year the number was at 11,167, but the Gland, Switzerland-based organization said it was difficult to compare the numbers because new species were being discovered and others change categories.

Conservationists think the current extinction rate is 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than it should be under natural conditions. That means that in the first decades of the 21st century, many creatures may disappear.

The primary reason: humans. Everything from expanding cities to deforestation, agriculture and fishing poses a significant threat to the planet's biodiversity, IUCN says.

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