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Researchers document world's mammals in crisis
Date:10/6/2008

t because they play key roles in ecosystems and provide important benefits to humans," Smith explained. "If you lose a mammal, you often are in danger of losing many other species."

The assessment shows that at least 1,141 of the 5,487 mammals on Earth are known to be threatened with extinction. At least 76 mammals have become extinct since 1500. The real situation could be much worse as 836 mammals are listed as "data deficient."

The culprits driving this precarious position include habitat loss and over exploitation for terrestrial mammals, and pollution, global warming and over exploitation for marine mammals, Smith said.

"Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," said Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general in announcing the Red List. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."

In the Science article, which includes the contributions of more than 1,700 scientists, the researchers state that 188 mammals are in the highest threat category of "critically endangered," including the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus), which has a population of just 84 to 143 adults and has continued to decline due to a shortage of its primary prey, the European Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).

China's Pre David's Deer (Elaphurus davidianus), is listed as "extinct in the wild." However, the captive and semi-captive populations have increased in recent years and it is possible that truly wild populations could be re-established soon. It may be too late, however, to save the additional 29 species that have been flagged as "critically endangered, possibly extinct" including Cuba's Little Earth Hutia (Mesocapromys sanfelipensis), which has not been seen in nearly 40 years.

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Contact: Skip Derra
skip.derra@asu.edu
480-965-4823
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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