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New report offers grim news on extinction threats facing Earth's vertebrate animal species

October 28, 2010 |  4:12 pm

Nagoya

One-fifth of the earth's vertebrate species are at risk of extinction, according to new research published online this week in the journal Science.

But study coauthor Neil A. Cox, of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Conservation International, noted that despite that staggering statistic, there is some good news on the biodiversity front as well. "We've had some successes," Cox said. "Without conservation [efforts] in place, extinctions would be much worse than they currently are."

Times reporter Eryn Brown offers further details from the new report:

Amphibians are the most endangered, with 30% of species threatened. Of mammals, reptiles and fish, 21% are threatened, as are 12% of birds. On average, 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians move one category closer to extinction each year, the paper said. ...

The update includes the Red List's first survey of conservation successes, Cox said. Sixty-eight species -- mostly mammals and birds -- improved in status, all but four because of conservation efforts such as hunting restrictions and controlling invasive species. Among these: the humpback whale, whose numbers have increased since the introduction of restrictions on whaling, and the California condor, which has rebounded somewhat through a captive breeding and reintroduction program.

The findings were released as politicians from around the world gathered in Nagoya, Japan, for the United Nations' 10th Convention on Biological Diversity to set conservation goals for 2020.

Learn more about the findings of the new report in Brown's recent story in The Times.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Officials are seated before the opening session of the high-level segment of the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP10) in Nagoya, Japan, on Wednesday. Credit: Yuriko Nakao / Reuters

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