IUCN Red List Update Includes Endangered Forest Giraffe
November 27, 2013

IUCN Red List Update: Okapi, White-Winged Flufftail Facing Extinction

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Two rare African creatures – a giraffe-like mammal known as the okapi and an extremely rare bird known as the white-winged flufftail – are on the verge of extinction, according to the latest update to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

The okapi, which is also known as the “forest giraffe,” was reclassified as an endangered species by the IUCN in the update released this week, according to BBC News. Scientists reviewing its status determined that the okapi, which has striped legs and a long blue tongue, is threatened by poaching and habitat loss, and that poverty and civil unrest in its native DR Congo have only made the situation worse.

“The okapi is revered in Congo as a national symbol,” Noelle Kumpel, head of the IUCN’s Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group, told the AFP news agency. “Sadly, DRC has been caught up in civil conflict and ravaged by poverty for nearly two decades, leading to widespread degradation of okapi habitat and hunting for its meat and skin.”

The white-winged flufftail is now listed as critically endangered, the news organization said. The tiny bird, which is found in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, has been hit hard by wetland drainage, the conversion of land for agricultural use, overgrazing by livestock and the reduction of swamp vegetation. According to National Geographic’s Brian Clark Howard, there are less than 1,000 of these dove-sized birds remaining.

The news wasn’t all bad, however. The IUCN reports that conservation efforts have helped the leatherback turtle, with the Associated Press (AP) confirming that the species has been upgraded to vulnerable. Likewise, the California Channel Island fox population, which was down to about 1,500 two decades ago, has more than tripled thanks to the removal of predators and to breeding efforts, Howard added.

Two species of albatrosses are also on the road to recovery, according to the IUCN’s Craig Hilton Taylor. The black-browed albatross and the black-footed albatross, both of which are threatened by fishermen who accidentally capture the rare birds, have experienced population increases and are now at a reduced risk of extinction. Albatrosses on the whole are still one of the most threatened types of birds, but as Taylor told Howard, “it's good to see there are some positive signs of recovery.”

“This IUCN Red List update shows some fantastic conservation successes, which we must learn from, for future conservation efforts,” Jane Smart, the global director of the IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group, told AFP. “However, the overall message remains bleak. With each update, whilst we see some species improving in status, there is a significantly larger number of species appearing in the threatened categories.”