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The remaining large patches of lowland forest in Tanintharyi, southern Myanmar, are the last global stronghold for the Endangered Gurney's pitta Hydrornis gurneyi. Except for a few individuals, the remaining population is now restricted to this forest, below 150 m altitude, mostly within the Nga Wun, Lenya, and Parchan Reserved Forests. However, as in much of South-east Asia, Tanintharyi has been subjected to extensive deforestation, particularly for oil palm cultivation. The aim of this research was to determine the extent of remaining habitat suitable for Gurney's pitta. During January–October 2016 we revisited 142 locations (of 147) where the species was detected during 2003–2012, and found it in only 41 of those locations (29%); in all other locations the forest had been cleared. We measured the decline of suitable habitat since 1999 by examining all available intact forest in areas with elevations < 150 m and slope < 10 °. In less than 2 decades suitable habitat has declined from 3,225 to 656 km2 (80%). Protection of remaining lowland forest is now critical. Although the expansion of oil palm cultivation has slowed since its peak in the early 2000s, two national parks proposed by the Myanmar government in 2002, which would potentially offer legal protection for most of the remaining Gurney's pitta habitat, remain on hold because of political uncertainties. We recommend an alternative conservation approach for this species, based on an Indigenous Community Conserved Area model, and further research to improve knowledge of the species and to determine how it could be saved from extinction.
The co-extinction of parasitic taxa and their host species is considered a common phenomenon in the current global extinction crisis. However, information about the conservation status of parasitic taxa is scarce. We present a global list of co-extinct and critically co-endangered parasitic lice (Phthiraptera), based on published data on their host-specificity and their hosts’ conservation status according to the IUCN Red List. We list six co-extinct and 40 (possibly 41) critically co-endangered species. Additionally, we recognize 2–4 species that went extinct as a result of conservation efforts to save their hosts. Conservationists should consider preserving host-specific lice as part of their efforts to save species.
Extinctions are occurring at an unprecedented rate as a consequence of human activities. Vertebrates constitute the best-known group of animals, and thus the group for which there are more accurate estimates of extinctions. Among them, freshwater fishes are particularly threatened and many species are declining. Here we report the extinction of an endemic freshwater fish of Mexico, the Catarina pupfish Megupsilon aporus, the sole species of the genus Megupsilon. We present a synopsis of the discovery and description of the species, the threats to, and degradation of, its habitat, and the efforts to maintain the species in captivity before it became extinct in 2014. The loss of the Catarina pupfish has evolutionary and ecological implications, and highlights the crisis of freshwater fish extinctions. It is a warning of the likely fate of more than 200 freshwater fish species threatened with extinction in Mexico. To save these species, the country urgently needs a national strategy to articulate a bold conservation effort, with better policies on ecosystem management and water use.
Many species are poorly known, with the sum of our knowledge represented by specimens in museums. For assessment of conservation status the most enigmatic and challenging species are probably those known only from a single specimen. We examine the potential persistence of such species using the orchid flora of Madagascar as a case study. We apply a statistical method that tests the likelihood of species presence in relation to the time when a species was collected and a measure of annual collection effort, calculated in three ways based on specimen collection over time. The results suggest that as of 2000 up to nine of the 236 orchid species known from a single specimen may be inferred to be extinct under at least one of the three methods of estimating collection effort and extinction. In addition, up to two additional species are likely to be extinct by 2018 assuming no new collections were made by that time. Substantial collection effort and/or additional evidence will be needed to reach a decision on the persistence of more recently observed species known only from a single collection. This represents a challenge for conservation practitioners.
Extinction is a profound biological event, yet despite its finality it can be difficult to verify and many frameworks have been proposed to define formally that extinction has occurred. For most taxonomic groups and regions there is no reliable list of species considered to be probably or possibly extinct. The record of plant extinctions in Australia is no exception, characterized by high turn-over within lists, low transparency of attribution and lack of consistency between jurisdictions. This makes it impossible to evaluate how many plant taxa have become extinct in Australia. We present an ecological framework for assessing the likelihood of plant extinctions, based on taxonomic soundness, degree of habitat modification, detectability and search effort, underpinned by the best available expert knowledge. We show that, in sharp contrast to both the fate of the Australian fauna and prevailing assumptions, only 12 of 71 plant taxa currently listed as or assumed to be extinct are considered probably extinct, and a further 21 possibly extinct. Twenty taxa listed as or assumed to be extinct have dubious taxonomy or occurrence in Australia, and the remaining 18 taxa are considered possibly extant and further surveys are required to ascertain their status. The list of probably and possibly extinct plants is dwarfed by the number thought extinct but rediscovered since 1980. Our method can be used for vascular floras in other regions characterized by well-documented and curated floras and high levels of expert knowledge, and provides a transparent platform for assessing changes in the status of biodiversity.
The Annamite mountains of Viet Nam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao) are an area of exceptional mammalian endemism but intensive poaching has defaunated much of the region, creating an extinction crisis for the endemic species. To make efficient use of limited conservation resources, it is imperative that conservation stakeholders obtain basic information about poorly known and threatened endemics. We present the first comprehensive information on the ecology, distribution and status of the little-known endemic Annamite striped rabbit Nesolagus timminsi. We used a systematic camera-trapping design to study the species in five areas in Viet Nam and Lao. In 29,180 camera-trap-nights we recorded 152 independent events at 36 of 266 stations. We obtained an additional 143 independent detections across 12 stations from a supplementary non-systematic survey. We analysed activity patterns and social behaviour. We also used single-species occupancy models to assess factors that influence occupancy at the landscape scale. We used N-mixture models to obtain local abundance estimates in one target area. The Annamite striped rabbit was found to be nocturnal and primarily solitary. Species occupancy was best explained by a proxy for past hunting pressure, with no significant relationships to current anthropogenic or environmental factors. Local abundance was 0.57 individuals per camera-trap station for one of our sites, and estimated to be zero at the other site where hunting appears to have been more intense. Our results provide information on priority areas for targeted anti-poaching efforts and give the first conservation baseline for the species.
The illegal wildlife trade is driving declines in populations of a number of large, charismatic animal species but also many lesser known and restricted-range species, some of which are now facing extinction as a result. The ploughshare tortoise Astrochelys yniphora, endemic to the Baly Bay National Park of north-western Madagascar, is affected by poaching for the international illegal pet trade. To quantify this, we estimated population trends during 2006–2015, using distance sampling surveys along line transects, and recorded national and international confiscations of trafficked tortoises for 2002–2016. The results suggest the ploughshare tortoise population declined > 50% during this period, to c. 500 adults and subadults in 2014–2015. Prior to 2006 very few tortoises were seized either in Madagascar or internationally but confiscations increased sharply from 2010. Since 2015 poaching has intensified, with field reports suggesting that two of the four subpopulations are extinct, leaving an unknown but almost certainly perilously low number of adult tortoises in the wild. This study has produced the first reliable population estimate of the ploughshare tortoise and shows that the species has declined rapidly because of poaching for the international pet trade. There is an urgent need for increased action both in Madagascar and along international trade routes if the extinction of the ploughshare tortoise in the wild is to be prevented.
The assessment of the conservation status of a species is the first step in developing a conservation strategy. IUCN Red Lists assessments are an important starting point for conservation actions and the most commonly applied method for assessing the extinction risk of a species. In this study, the global conservation status of the rock rose Helianthemum caput-felis Boiss. (Cistaceae), a perennial Mediterranean plant, was evaluated using the Red List criteria. The distribution of the species was determined by monitoring historical localities and all other suitable sites along the western Mediterranean coasts for 6 years. For each confirmed locality, the ecological and population parameters and the main threats were recorded; these data were used in a quantitative analysis of the species' extinction risk. Our findings indicate there have been several recent extinctions, and there is a continuing decline in the species' area of occurrence, habitat quality and number of reproductive plants. The main threats are related to human activities. Extinction models indicate a probability of quasi-extinction risk of c. 30% in five generations or c. 45% in three generations, with the species likely to become extinct in seven currently known localities within the next 10 years. Application of the Red List criteria indicates H. caput-felis should be categorized as Endangered. This study confirms that legal protection and passive conservation measures are insufficient to guarantee the persistence of a plant species. Active conservation and management actions are needed to protect this and other threatened species of the Mediterranean Basin.
Extinction is the complete loss of a species, but the accuracy of that status depends on the overall information about the species. Dracaena umbraculifera was described in 1797 from a cultivated plant attributed to Mauritius, but repeated surveys failed to relocate it and it was categorized as Extinct on the IUCN Red List. However, several individuals labelled as D. umbraculifera grow in botanical gardens, suggesting that the species’ IUCN status may be inaccurate. The goal of this study was to understand (1) where D. umbraculifera originated, (2) which species are its close relatives, (3) whether it is extinct, and (4) the identity of the botanical garden accessions and whether they have conservation value. We sequenced a cpDNA region of Dracaena from Mauritius, botanical garden accessions labelled as D. umbraculifera, and individuals confirmed to be D. umbraculifera based on morphology, one of which is a living plant in a private garden. We included GenBank accessions of Dracaena from Madagascar and other locations and reconstructed the phylogeny using Bayesian and parsimony approaches. Phylogenies indicated that D. umbraculifera is more closely related to Dracaena reflexa from Madagascar than to Mauritian Dracaena. As anecdotal information indicated that the living D. umbraculifera originated from Madagascar, we conducted field expeditions there and located five wild populations; the species’ IUCN status should therefore be Critically Endangered because < 50 wild individuals remain. Although the identity of many botanical garden samples remains unresolved, this study highlights the importance of living collections for facilitating new discoveries and the importance of documenting and conserving the flora of Madagascar.
The spectacular partulid tree snail fauna of the Society Islands has been almost completely extirpated in recent decades following the deliberate introduction of the alien carnivorous snail Euglandina rosea. The greatest loss has occurred on the island of Raiatea, French Polynesia, home to an estimated 34 species (including 33 single-island endemics), all of which have been deemed extirpated in the wild. However, we report here the February 2006 discovery of two surviving Raiatean partulid lineages on the upper slopes of Mount Tefatua, the highest peak on the island. They have been identified using morphological and molecular phylogenetic analyses, the latter approach employing available museum and captive reference samples. One population, at 750 m elevation, consisted of Samoana attenuata. It has a multi-island distribution within the archipelago and surviving populations persist also on Tahiti and Moorea. A second population, present just below the summit at 950 m, consisted of a previously unstudied morphospecies and it has been formally described as Partula meyeri. It is unclear if a stable altitudinal refuge from E. rosea predation exists on Mount Tefatua but the unexpected discovery of these two surviving montane populations raises the possibility of preserving some fraction of Raiatea's endemic tree snail diversity in the wild.