more on the brink

Last week, the World Conservation Union released its annual list of species in danger of extinction. The so-called “Red List” is updated every year, based on information from thousands of conservation experts around the world. This year’s list makes especially depressing reading. More than a thousand species have been added since 2002, and the list has passed the 12,000 mark: 12,259 species are officially classed as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable. The study highlights island fauna and flora, which are usually found nowhere else on earth, as being particularly at risk from introduced plants and animals that destroy their habitats. In Hawaii, for example, 85 native plant species are at risk. On the Galapagos, over 30 species of snails are in danger. “While we are still only scratching the surface in assessing all known species, we are confident this [12,259] figure is an indicator of what is happening to global biological diversity,” stated Achim Steiner, the union’s director general.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 11/25/2003.
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