While some species are seeing a chance of new beginnings, the World Wide Fund for Nature is giving a poor report card on halting biodiversity loss for 2009.
Among the world’s endangered species, tigers, rhinoceroses, and polar bears had the worst year in 2009 according to the World Wide Fund for Nature. However, the Elbe beaver, lynx and Amur leopard may have a slightly more promising future, the WWF said in Frankfurt on Tuesday. The organization criticized the progressive destruction of animal habitats by a combined process of climate change, increased poaching and over-exploitation by humans.
“There were a few silver linings, but the mass extinction of animals and plants persisted unabated in 2009,” said Chris Dickinson, head of species conservation at WWF Germany.
As a result, he said, the federal government had missed its target of halting biodiversity loss by 2010.
According to WWF estimates, only about 3,200 tigers still exist in the wild worldwide, and the South China tiger might even be extinct thanks to poaching and the demand for illegal tiger products in traditional Asian medicine.
It is too late, according to the WWF, for the Kihansi spray toad in Tanzania which became extinct after a new dam destroyed its habitat and a fungus wiped out the rest of the species. Also, approximately 1,900 of a total of about 6,300 different species of amphibians have been classified as highly endangered.
At particular risk, according to the WWF, are polar bears. Large areas of the Arctic will be polar bear-free by 2050. Climate change is altering the ecosystem of polar bears at such a rapid pace that the animals cannot adapt quickly enough, the organization said.
Also in dire peril are the Annamese rhinos in Vietnam: Only eight animals still exist, the WWF believes. And these are acutely threatened by new roads near the Cat Tien National Park.
In German forests, however, there has been some good news. The lynx has carved out new habitats in the Bavarian Forest and the Harz region after 100 years of absence, the WWF says.
In addition, the Elbe beaver found a home in the wetlands along the banks of the Elbe river, thanks to one of the largest dike-building projects in Europe. The project managed to increase the beaver’s habitat in the wetlands along the river while also reducing the risk of flooding for residents in the area thanks to the widened wetland zone.
The third partial success story this year was the Amur leopard, which is native to eastern Russia. There are an estimated 35 of the big cats in the wild. This year rangers spotted a female with three pups eating their supper in a quarry.