A new report says the number of species threatened with extinction is escalating. The World Conservation Union, which has just released its Red List of Threatened Species, warns life on Earth will continue to disappear at a rapid rate unless urgent action is taken. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva, close to Gland, Switzerland where the Union is headquartered.
There are now 41,415 species on the Red List and 16,306 of them are threatened with extinction. This is nearly 200 more than last year. The World Conservation Union says the total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation.
Included in the list of endangered species are the Western Gorilla, the Yangtze River Dolphin, India and Nepal's crocodile, and Vultures in Africa and Asia. For the first time, 10 species of corals from the Galapagos Islands have been added to the Red List.
Program Officer for the Union's Red List, Caroline Pollock, says the Great Apes are critically endangered because of habitat loss, poaching and the deadly Ebola virus. She says the gorilla population has declined by 60 percent over the last 25 years.
She tells VOA any species loss is a great loss to humanity. Even the forbidding vulture, she says, is of tremendous use.
"A lot of people think of them as just a great big ugly bird that eats nasty dead things. But, actually we need big ugly birds to eat nasty dead things. It helps their environment tremendously," said Pollock. "The people who live in the areas and share their habitat with vultures, they do actually rely on vultures to get rid of carrion and to cut down on the spread of disease from animals being out there in the fields. So, we do actually need them to play an important role in their health and their own system."
Pollock says the main cause of all animal, fish and plant species loss is human induced. She says most of the time, species decline is due to habitat loss and degradation, the effects of over-hunting, poaching and over-fishing.
She says invasive species are very destructive when they are brought to islands or areas where they do not naturally exist. She says other factors such as disease and climate change can also threaten species. In all cases, she says, humanity is the big loser.
"We entirely rely on bio-diversity," she said. "Species, animals and plants, all across the whole planet-they give us our food. They give us our livelihoods. They give us our furniture, the roofs over our heads. They give us medicines - a whole range of things we take for granted nowadays, they all come from species. And the more species we lose, the more we are risking our own health, our own welfare and we are risking our future generations. It is something we really absolutely need to pay attention to and do something about."
Pollock says bio-diversity loss can be stemmed by actions including conservation measures, the protection of habitats and steps to stop climate change.
She says governments should take the lead in enacting good conservation policies. But, she notes everyone has to consider the consequences of their own actions and not be wasteful in using the earth's precious resources.