November 18, 2004 — By Reuters
BANGKOK − The World Conservation Union (IUCN) unveiled its 2004 "Red List" of endangered species on Wednesday, saying the roll-call of animals threatened with extinction is growing faster than ever before.
The full IUCN Red List is available on the Internet at www.iucnredlist.org.
Following are some salient facts from the list and the IUCN's accompanying Global Species Assessment.
Of the 15,589 species on the list of threatened species, 7,266 are animals and 8,323 are plants or lichen.
Australia, Brazil, China, Indonesia and Mexico hold particularly large numbers of threatened species.
Most threatened birds, mammals and amphibians are found in the tropical areas of Central and South America, Africa south of the Sahara, and tropical South and Southeast Asia.
A total of 784 extinctions have been documented since AD 1500, when accurate historical and scientific records on species started. This figure has risen from 766 documented extinctions by 2000.
While the vast majority of extinctions since AD 1500 have occurred on islands, over the past 20 years continental extinctions have become as common as island extinctions.
Although estimates vary greatly, current extinction rates are at least one hundred to a thousand times higher than "background," or "natural," rates.
Humans have been the main cause of extinction and continue to be the principle threat to species at risk of extinction.
Habitat loss, introduced species, and over-exploitation are the main threats, with human-induced climate change becoming an increasingly significant problem.