Report from IUCN Oceania on freshwater fishes, land snails and reptiles

Dear Friends,

Below is the latest from Helen Pippard, Species and Membership Officer of the IUCN Oceania Team. Congratulations to the IUCN Oceania on the completion of this project.

Happy reading!


Suva, Fiji, 18 October 2012 (IUCN)

New information for Pacific Island freshwater fishes, land snails and reptiles is part of the latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ released today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These data indicate that 32% of these species are threatened with extinction.

This is an important milestone for understanding the challenges of managing plant and animal life in the Pacific Islands. IUCN Oceania, in partnership with the IUCN Red List Unit and other regional partners, is currently expanding the assessment of Pacific Island species for the IUCN Red List.

“The Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia are home to an astonishingly diverse range of terrestrial species, many of which are found nowhere else on earth,” says Helen Pippard, Species Programme Officer for IUCN’s Oceania Regional Office in Suva Fiji. “But in order to conserve the species that are so vital for the health, culture and livelihoods of Pacific Islanders, we must improve our knowledge of these species”.

In the most comprehensive assessment of its kind in the Pacific, an expert team evaluated 167 freshwater fishes, 166 species of land snail and 157 reptiles for inclusion in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (IUCN Red List). This two-year project is the first step in a process that aims to systematically address different Pacific Island species groups over the next 10 years.

Although these species may not be seen as “charismatic”, they are extremely important in maintaining general ecosystem health: land snails play a vital role in nutrient-cycling, especially of calcium; reptiles can take on the role of predator or prey and often act as seed dispersers; and in the freshwater realm, fishes recycle nutrients, purify water and provide an important food source for many Pacific Islanders.
Land snails are found to be the most highly threatened group, with 70% of the assessed species threatened: half of all threatened species are listed as Critically Endangered, and many, including Aaadonta angaurana from Angaur island in Palau and Lauopa mbalavuana from Vanua Balavu in Fiji, also qualify for Possibly Extinct, as no live or dead shells have been found in recent times.

Land snails also have the highest number of species found nowhere else, with 86% of species recorded from a single country. In Fiji, three quarters of all assessed species are endemic, and in Palau, over 90% of species are unique to the archipelago.

These restricted range species are especially vulnerable to the presence of invasive species such as the giant African snail, Rosy wolf snail and predatory mammals like rats and mongooses, which are decimating these snail populations. Habitat destruction for logging, agriculture and development has also been identified as a major threat.

The threatened freshwater fishes are confined to single or few river systems and are severely impacted by the existence of dams (e.g. Futuna’s emperor, Akihito futuna (CR) from the island of Futuna) and by pollution from deforestation, agriculture and mining effluents – for example, Stiphodon discotorquatus (CR) from the Tubuai Islands in French Polynesia is affected by land clearance, pesticides and the construction of dams, and Sicyopterus eudentatus (EN) from the Federated States of Micronesia is threatened by agricultural run-off devastating its habitat.

Whilst many fish species are not listed as threatened (due to their larger range and ability to occupy a variety of freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats), a large number (40%) are listed as Data Deficient. We urgently need information on these species in order to evaluate their conservation status, protect them and ensure that people’s livelihoods are safeguarded.

Almost one fifth of reptiles have been assessed as threatened, and are impacted by invasive mammals and plants, and by habitat degradation (e.g. the Pohnpei Forest skink, Emoia ponapea (EN) and the Fijian banded iguana, Brachylophus bulabula (EN).

Some species are affected by hunting and trade (e.g. the widespread Pacific Boa, Candoia bibroni (LC) and the endemic Fijian Crested Iguana, Brachylophus vitiensis (CR).

Future impacts from climate change may affect the thermo-regulation of some reptiles such as the Polynesian slender treeskink, Emoia tongana (LC).

Tachygyia microlepis, previously recorded from Tonga, has been driven to extinction as a result of habitat loss, human colonization and invasive predators such as dogs, pigs and rats. Conservation efforts are therefore needed to protect the identified threatened species and prevent further extinctions.

This study highlights the enormous strain on our natural environments. The results are particularly important for guiding decision-making and conservation activities of Pacific Island governments, NGOs and the private sector and enabling direct action on the ground.

“Until now we have not had the information we need about species and the threats they face”, says Bernard O’Callaghan, IUCN Oceania’s Regional Programme Coordinator. “But these IUCN Red List assessments can now help decision-makers develop suitable policies and plans, to manage these threatened species and protect and value Pacific Island biodiversity.”

The findings of this assessment are being published in a regional report, and summary documents are now available from the IUCN Oceania website.

The Red Listing Project to carry out assessments on land snails, freshwater fishes and reptiles in the Pacific region is supported by funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund and the Fonds Pacifique.

Notes to editors

The IUCN Red List contributes to the achievement of Target 12 of the 2011 to 2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity. Target 12: By 2020 the extinction of known threatened species has been prevented and their conservation status, particularly of those most in decline, has been improved and sustained.

To save threatened species from extinction, countries need to develop plans to achieve other Aichi targets in particular:

  • Target 5 – Habitat loss reduced
  • Target 7 – Sustainable management (aquaculture, agriculture and forestry)
  • Target 11 – Protected areas increased
  • Target 17 – National biodiversity strategies and action plans developed
  • Target 20 – Financial resources increased

Global figures for the 2012.2 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

  • (Total threatened species = 20,219)
  • Extinct = 795
  • Extinct in the Wild = 63
  • Critically Endangered = 4,088
  • Endangered = 5,919
  • Vulnerable = 10,212
  • Near Threatened = 4,574

Lower Risk/conservation dependent = 254 (this is an old category that is gradually being phased out of the Red List) Data Deficient = 10,673

  • Least Concern = 28,940

The figures presented above are only for those species that have been assessed for The IUCN Red List to date. Although not all of the world’s species have been assessed, The IUCN Red List provides a useful snapshot of what is happening to species today and highlights the urgent need for conservation action.

Relative percentages for threatened species cannot be provided for many taxonomic groups on The IUCN Red List because they have not been comprehensively assessed. For many of these groups, assessment efforts have focused on threatened species; therefore, the percentage of threatened species for these groups would be heavily biased.

For those groups that have been comprehensively assessed, the percentage of threatened species can be calculated, but the actual number of threatened species is often uncertain because it is not known whether Data Deficient (DD) species are actually threatened or not. Therefore, the percentages presented above provide the best estimate of extinction risk for those groups that have been comprehensively assessed (excluding Extinct species), based on the assumption that Data Deficient species are equally threatened as data sufficient species. In other words, this is a mid-point figure within a range from x% threatened species (if all DD species are not threatened) to y% threatened species (if all DD species are threatened). Available evidence indicates that this is a best estimate.

Highlights from the 2012.2 update

Species moving into the Extinct category

  • • Invertebrates
    • Margatteoidea amoena
    • Neoplanorbis tantillus
    • Re-discovered species
  • • Plants
    • Erythrina schliebenii – Critically Endangered

Status changes

  • Plants
    • Erythrina schliebeni – moved from Extinct to Critically Endangered
    • Newtonia erlangeri – moved from Near Threatened to Endangered
  • Marine Fish
    • Great Seahorse (Hippocampus kelloggi) – moved from Data Deficient to Vulnerable
  • • Invertebrates
    • Painted Rocksnail (Leptoxis taeniata) – moved from Vulnerable to Endangered
    • Fat Pocketbook Pearly Mussel (Potamilus capax) – moved from Critically Endangered to Vulnerable
    • Huachuca Springsnail (Pyrgulopsis thompsoni) – moved from Vulnerable to Near Threatened
  • • Mammals
    • Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) – moved from Endangered to Near Threatened
  • Reptiles
    • Grand Cayman Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) – moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered

Some examples of the over 1,682 species newly recorded on the 2012.2 IUCN Red List

  • Invertebrates
    • Dasypoda frieseana – Endangered
  • Reptiles
    • Acanthocercus adramitanus – Least Concern
    • Acanthodactylus felicis – Vulnerable
    • Egyptian Mastigure (Uromastyx aegypti) – Vulnerable
  • Fresh Water Fishes
    • Siberian Taimen (Hucho taimen) – Vulnerable
    • Sichuan Taimen (Hucho bleekeri) – Critically Endangered
    • Korean Taimen (Hucho ishikiwae) – Data Deficient

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (or The IUCN Red List) is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plant, animal and fungi species. It is based on an objective system for assessing the risk of extinction of a species should no conservation action be taken.

Species are assigned to one of eight categories of threat based on whether they meet criteria linked to population trend, population size and structure and geographic range. Species listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable are collectively described as ‘Threatened’.

The IUCN Red List is not just a register of names and associated threat categories. It is a rich compendium of information on the threats to the species, their ecological requirements, where they live, and information on conservation actions that can be used to reduce or prevent extinctions.

The IUCN Red List is a joint effort between IUCN and its Species Survival Commission, working with its Red List partners BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Conservation International; NatureServe; Microsoft; Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; Sapienza University of Rome; Texas A&M University; Wildscreen; and Zoological Society of London. @amazingspecies

The IUCN Red List threat categories

The IUCN Red List threat categories are as follows, in descending order of threat:

Extinct or Extinct in the Wild

Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable: species threatened with global extinction;

Near Threatened: species close to the threatened thresholds or that would be threatened without ongoing specific conservation measures;

Least Concern: species evaluated with a lower risk of extinction;

Data Deficient: no assessment because of insufficient data.

Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct): this is not a new Red List category, but is a flag developed to identify those Critically Endangered species that are in all probability already Extinct but for which confirmation is required, for example, through more extensive surveys being carried out and failing to find any individuals.

About the Species Survival Commission

The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of around 7,500 experts. SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation, and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity. SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation.

About IUCN

IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,000 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 60 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world. IUCN’s Regional Office for Oceania is located in Suva, Fiji.

Helen Pippard
Species and Membership Officer
Oceania Regional Office
IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)
5 Ma’afu Street
Tel: +679 331 9084
Fax: +679 310 0128
Mobile: +679 946 7511
skype: helenpippard