Once-abundant antelopes are now at risk of extinction as they are hunted for meat, a shocking report into species at risk warned yesterday.
The report warned that five kinds of antelope in Africa face being wiped out, along with billions of ash trees.
The annual Red List of Threatened Species report warns of plants and wildlife in danger.
A report warned that five kinds of antelope in Africa face being wiped out, along with billions of ash trees
Produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the report said the antelopes are on the brink of extinction as humans increasingly hunt them in Africa for meat and cut into their habitats with roads and houses, as well as hunting.
The five African antelopes, included the giant eland, mountain reedbuck, Heuglin’s gazelle, southern leche and grey rhebok, has worsened, the report said. The grey rhebok is the animal from which the ‘Reebok’ sports brand is named.
David Mallon, Co-Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Antelope Specialist Group said: ‘Antelopes have been declining as human populations continue to grow, clearing land for agriculture, unsustainably harvesting bushmeat, expanding their settlements, extracting resources and building new roads.’
The world’s largest antelope, the Giant Eland has declined to just 10,000 mature animals; also of least concern, the Mountain Reedbuck has declined by 55 per cent in its South African population over the last 15 years and is now listed as Endangered.
The list includes 87,967 species of which 25,062 are threatened with extinction, being listed in the most high risk categories: critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction.
A staggering eight billion ash trees could be wiped out in the US by the emerald ash borer beetle, which arrived in Michigan from Asia in the late 1990s via infested shipping pallets, spreads through woods and cities in the US and Canada, they said.
Experts at Kew Gardens, London, have previously warned there was a ‘real chance’ it could turn up in the UK, hitting ash populations which are already damaged by the fungal disease ash dieback.
The annual Red List of Threatened Species report warns of plants and wildlife in danger. Pictured: Antelopes gather round an elephant in Nambia
Three of the five ash species listed as critically endangered, green ash, black ash and white ash, make up nearly nine billion trees in forests across the US, with major economic and environmental value.
The Christmas Island pipistrelle bat, which was found only on the Australian island, has been declared extinct, having not been seen despite extensive searches since 2009.
There is better news for the elusive snow leopard which, thanks to new data, has been moved from endangered to the less at-risk ‘vulnerable’ category, though its population in the Himalayas continues to decline due to poaching, persecution and fewer prey.
However, experts warned the new classification does not mean the animals are safe.
Snow leopards still face serious challenges including poaching and loss of prey in their high Himalayan habitat.
‘The species still faces ‘a high risk of extinction in the wild’ and is likely still declining – just not at the rate previously thought,’ said Tom McCarthy, head of the snow leopard programme at the big cat conservation group Panthera.
Inger Andersen, IUCN director general, said: ‘Our activities as humans are pushing species to the brink so fast that it’s impossible for conservationists to assess the declines in real time.
‘Even those species that we thought were abundant and safe – such as antelopes in Africa or ash trees in the US – now face an imminent threat of extinction.’
She said that while conservation action worked, protecting forests, grasslands and other habitats that humans relied on was not a high enough funding priority.
‘Our planet needs urgent, global action, guided by the Red List data, to ensure species’ survival and our own sustainable future,” she said.
An assessment of Madagascan pygmy grasshoppers shows almost 40 per cent are threatened, with seven listed as critically endangered, including the Rumplestiltskin pygmy grasshopper, while 40 per cent of millipedes are also facing extinction.
The new Red List also shows Thongaree’s disc-nosed bat, found only in southern Thailand, is critically endangered due to loss of habitat.
But the Rodrigues flying fox, found only on the Mauritian island of Rodrigues, has moved from critically endangered to endangered thanks to improved habitat and legal protection.