AS alarm bells continue to ring over big declines in world biodiversity, conservationists warned yesterday a number of South African bird species are now moving towards extinction.
Among those flagged on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List is the charismatic African penguin, which has declined by 60.5% over the past 28 years, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) said.
“This is primarily due to food shortages linked to commercial fishing and recent large-scale changes in fish distributions.”
EWT said other severely- threatened bird species in South Africa include various types of cranes, the Taita falcon – down to 25 adult individuals – and the southern ground hornbill.
“Of the 9856 bird species on Earth, 1226 are listed as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. Forty of these occur in South Africa, and of these 20 are endemic.
“Although extinction is a natural phenomenon, species are now disappearing from our planet at an alarming rate, and studies have shown that this is mostly driven by human activities.
“In South Africa, a number of birds are listed on the IUCN Red List, with several heading for extinction should some of the threats continue and should the NGOs who are implementing conservation action halt their work.”
The IUCN Red List, a ranking of the conservation status of species, runs from those categorised of least concern, through vulnerable to endangered to critically endangered, to extinct at the other end of the scale.
EWT said only about 250 wattled cranes remained in South Africa.
“Recent surveys in Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, countries long thought to be strongholds for the wattled crane, show the global population is only half of what has been reported in recent years.
“Some of the greatest losses have occurred in South Africa, where a 38% decline between 1980 and 2000 left the national population critically endangered. Only about 250 individuals remain in South Africa.” – Sapa