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One-fourth of wild mammal species may face extinction

October 7, 2008 | 11:59 am

Black footed ferret

At least 25% of the world's mammal species in the wild are threatened with extinction. This news comes from an international survey released Monday that blames the loss of wildlife habitat as well as hunting and poaching for the steep declines. Times staff writer Ken Weiss reports:

The baiji, or Chinese river dolphin, is teetering on the edge of extinction and may have already joined the list of species that have vanished from Earth. Others are not far behind, such as the vaquita, a small porpoise that has been drowning in fishing nets in the northern part of the Gulf of California; the North Atlantic right whale; and various monkeys and other primates hunted by poachers in Africa.

Scientists have determined that about 25% of the world's 5,487 species of mammals face extinction. The proportion of marine mammals in trouble appears to be higher, with an estimated one-third under serious threat of being wiped out. Many are killed when they are struck by ships or become entangled in fishing gear and drown.

About half the world's remaining species of apes, monkeys and other primates face threats from hunting or deforestation to make way for farming, said Russell A. Mittermeier, president of Conservation International.

For a photo gallery of endangered animals, including the black-footed ferret, above, click here.

Photo: Greg Wood / AFP/Getty Images

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