Red List 2013: 6 animals on the brink of extinction

The okapi and the white-winged flufftail are listed among the world's most threatened species

Topics: endangered species, wildlife, IUCN, Conservation, ,

Red List 2013: 6 animals on the brink of extinctionThe DRC's okapi is newly recognized as endangered(Credit: Malgorzata Litkowska/Shutterstock)

A rare, strange breed of giraffe and an even rarer bird could soon be lost forever, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The Swedish-based group, which tracks and studies the world’s least common species, just updated its Red List to reflect the current state of threatened mammals, birds, reptiles and plants.

It’s not all bad news, the IUCN is quick to point out, as conservation efforts have led to success stories for a species like the California Channel Island fox and leatherback sea turtles. Both remain on the list, but with less urgent classifications on a scale that ranges from “least concern” to “extinct.”

Still, “the overall message remains bleak,” said IUCN’s Jane Smart. ”With each update, whilst we see some species improving in status, there is a significantly larger number of species appearing in the threatened categories.”

Of 71,576 species assessed, a full 21,286 are threatened with extinction. As some of the Red List’s more notable updates demonstrate, the fate of all remains insecure:



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    Krzysztof Wiktor/Shutterstock

    Red List 2013

    The okapi, a close cousin of the giraffe, has been bumped up from "near threatened" to "endangered" -- three steps away from extinction. Unique to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it's fallen victim to poaching and habitat loss, and its population has dropped by as much as 50 percent since 1995.

    Myimagine/Shutterstock

    Red List 2013

    Popular demand for the white cockatoo has led to it being trapped and caged at unsustainable levels, and it's officially become "endangered." In some areas of Indonesia, trappers are believed to be removing up to 17 percent of the population every year.

    Terence/Shutterstock

    Red List 2013

    Thanks to conservation efforts, including the reintroduction and vaccination efforts, the California Channel Island fox population is way up from a low of under 1,500 in 2002. Its resurgence to about 5,500 today means it's no longer "critically endangered," and instead is merely "near threatened."

    Stephanie Rousseau/Shutterstock

    Red List 2013

    Populations of the leatherback, the largest species of turtle, are improving in the Atlantic, warranting a change from "critically endangered" to "vulnerable." In the Pacific ocean, however, egg harvesting and fisheries have sent the species into severe decline.

    Katariina Järvinen/Shutterstock

    Red List 2013

    Habitat loss, illegal hunting and epidemics have left the white-lipped peccary in danger of a population crash. Found in Central and South America, it's now categorized as "vulnerable."

    Clive Kaplan/Wikimedia Commons

    Red List 2013

    Even photos of the white-winged flufftail, one of Africa's rarest birds, are difficult to find. With fewer than 1,000 believed to be left, it's listed as "critically endagered," and is in danger of being lost forever.

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Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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