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Hoffmann M.,IUCN Species Survival Commission | Hoffmann M.,United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Center | Duckworth J.W.,IUCN Species Survival Commission | Holmes K.,IUCN Species Survival Commission | And 6 more authors.
Conservation Biology | Year: 2015

Previous studies show that conservation actions have prevented extinctions, recovered populations, and reduced declining trends in global biodiversity. However, all studies to date have substantially underestimated the difference conservation action makes because they failed to account fully for what would have happened in the absence thereof. We undertook a scenario-based thought experiment to better quantify the effect conservation actions have had on the extinction risk of the world's 235 recognized ungulate species. We did so by comparing species' observed conservation status in 2008 with their estimated status under counterfactual scenarios in which conservation efforts ceased in 1996. We estimated that without conservation at least 148 species would have deteriorated by one International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List category, including 6 species that now would be listed as extinct or extinct in the wild. The overall decline in the conservation status of ungulates would have been nearly 8 times worse than observed. This trend would have been greater still if not for conservation on private lands. While some species have benefited from highly targeted interventions, such as reintroduction, most benefited collaterally from conservation such as habitat protection. We found that the difference conservation action makes to the conservation status of the world's ungulate species is likely to be higher than previously estimated. Increased, and sustained, investment could help achieve further improvements. © 2015, Society for Conservation Biology. Source

Pereira H.M.,University of Lisbon | Ferrier S.,CSIRO | Walters M.,South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research | Geller G.N.,Jet Propulsion Laboratory | And 26 more authors.
Science | Year: 2013

A global system of harmonized observations is needed to inform scientists and policy-makers. Source

News Article
Site: http://news.yahoo.com/green/

The cornerstones of the Chinese effort to bring back its pandas have included an intense effort to replant bamboo forests, which provide food and shelter for the bears (AFP Photo/Greg Baker) Honolulu (AFP) - Decades of conservation work in China have paid off for the giant panda, whose status was upgraded Sunday from "endangered" to "vulnerable" due to a population rebound, officials said. The improvement for the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) was announced as part of an update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the world's most comprehensive inventory of plants and animals. The latest estimates show a population of 1,864 adult giant pandas. Although exact numbers are not available, adding cubs to the projection would mean about 2,060 pandas exist today, said the IUCN. "Evidence from a series of range-wide national surveys indicate that the previous population decline has been arrested, and the population has started to increase," said the IUCN's updated report. The cornerstones of the Chinese government's effort to bring back its fuzzy, black-and-white national icon have included an intense effort to replant bamboo forests, which provide food and shelter for the bears. Through its "rent-a-panda" captive breeding program, China has also loaned some bears to zoos abroad in exchange for cash, and reinvested that money in conservation efforts. "When push comes to shove, the Chinese have done a really good job with pandas," John Robinson, a primatologist and chief conservation officer at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told AFP. "So few species are actually downlisted, it really is a reflection of the success of conservation," he said at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, the largest meeting of its kind, which drew more than 9,000 heads of state, policymakers and environmentalists to Honolulu. According to Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission, the improvement was "not rocket science" but came from the hard work of controlling poaching and replanting bamboo forests. "This is something to celebrate because it is not a part of the world where we expect this to happen," Stuart told reporters at a press conference to unveil the updated Red List. Experts warned, however, that the good news for pandas could be short-lived. A warming planet, driven by fossil fuel burning, is predicted to wipe out more than one-third of the panda's bamboo habitat in the next 80 years. That means the panda population is projected to decline, and any gains realized to date could be reversed, said Carlo Rondinini, mammal assessment coordinator at the Sapienza University of Rome. "The concern now is that although the population has slowly increased -- and it is still very small -- several models predict a reduction of the extent of bamboo forests in China in the coming decades due to climate change," he told reporters. The IUCN report said China's plan to expand its conservation effort for pandas "is a positive step and must be strongly supported to ensure its effective implementation." The IUCN Red List includes 82,954 species, including both plants and animals. Almost one-third -- 23,928 -- are threatened with extinction, it said.

News Article
Site: http://phys.org/biology-news/

The Persian dwarf snake or Eirenis persicus lives in an area stretching from southern Turkey to the northeast of Pakistan. Mahdi Rajabizadeh, a former PhD student of Ghent University professor Dominique Adriaens, decided to investigate its biodiversity. Together with researchers from six other countries, he examined 30 male and 30 female specimens, based on extensive field expeditions and museum specimens. The scientists used advanced techniques such as geometric morphometrics, molecular phylogeny and ecological niche modeling. The research, which was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, revealed that the Persian dwarf snake is not a single species at all. It is composed of 6 different species, wrongly classified as the species Eirenis persicus. A molecular clock analysis revealed that the divergence and diversification of the E. persicus species group mainly correspond to Eocene to Pliocene orogeny events subsequent to the Arabia-Eurasia collision. The six species are Eirenis nigrofasciatus, Eirenis walteri, Eirenis angusticeps, Eirenis walteri, Eirenis mcmahoni and Eirenis occidentalis. Except for E. occidentalis, which is a completely new discovery by the researchers, these species were already described between 1872 and 1911. However, during the last half of the previous century, herpetologists considered them as a single species with some difference in color and pattern, because the overall morphology is quite similar. The findings might be important for the conservation of the snake. Mahdi Rajabizadeh is a member of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC), a science-based network of more than 10,000 volunteer experts from almost every country of the world. "Eirenis persicus was not listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", he says, "because it was regarded as a species with a great distribution range. But each of the 6 newly identified species within the Persian dwarf snakes must be put on the Red List, since each of them actually has a limited distribution." The research of Mahdi Rajabizadeh puts emphasis on the importance of taxonomy and indicates that, without sophisticated taxonomy in a changing world, we may lose species we did not identify yet. Explore further: New snake species found in a museum

News Article
Site: http://www.treehugger.com/feeds/category/science/

Prior to the discovery, fewer than 1,000 grey-shanked doucs were known to exist, making them one of the 25 most endangered primates on the planet. The gray-shanked douc (Pygathrix cinerea) is a heartbreakingly lovely creature – just look at that face. Found only in Vietnam, the poor primates have had a rough time of it. The species is listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered and is included in the organization’s listing of The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates. Poor things. Everything was fine until ol’ homo sapiens came in to rain on the parade. The main threats to the grey-shanked douc are deforestation, habitat fragmentation and hunting. Doucs fall victim to the illegal wildlife trade and are hunted for bushmeat, traditional medicine and the pet trade. What the (insert profanity here) is wrong with us? By most accounts there were thought to be fewer than 1000 individuals left, but in a wonderful turn of events, a whole host of them was discovered during a field survey by Fauna & Flora International (FFI). The find of at least 500 grey-shanked doucs in Kon Tum Province, deep in the forests of Vietnam’s Central Highlands, almost doubles the known global population of the enigmatic primate. “To discover a large population of one of Vietnam’s most rare and precious animals is truly an honor,” says Trinh Dinh Hoang, who led the survey team. Dr. Ben Rawson , FFI Country Director, says, “This really is Vietnam’s monkey; it is found nowhere else. This new population provides hope, but the species is sadly still on the brink of extinction – something that FFI is working hard to prevent.” FFI has been working in Vietnam for almost two decades focusing on conservation of Vietnam’s native primate species, working with both the government and communities. Russell A. Mittermeier, Chairman of the IUCN Species Survival Commission's Primate Specialist Group, says, “Vietnam is now considered to have 11 Critically Endangered primate species, and therefore represents a priority for conservation in Southeast Asia.” Adding, “Historical large-scale forest loss and persecution of primates for the illegal wildlife trade has resulted in the current situation requiring last-ditch conservation efforts in many cases.” But even with their numbers doubled, doucs are still listed as Critically Endangered. “It will take the combined efforts of government, local communities, civil society, scientists and donors to ensure the long-term survival of this species, but this is a step in the right direction,” added Rawson. One can hope that this isn’t the last secret cluster of endangered primates. How wonderful if whole populations had been escaping notice, hiding out in the depths of deep forests, going about their primate lives. But even if so, we still need to do everything we can to support conservation of the ones who've been counted and who are so direly threatened. Visit FFI for more on their work and how to help.

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