Inaccurate 'red list'

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

two researchers have recently alleged that the much-acclaimed 'Red List' (which gives an account of the fauna species that may become extinct worldover) is inaccurate, as it does not take into account threats posed by human encroachments on wild habitats. The list is compiled by the Switzerland-based World Conservation Union (iucn). Its main criteria are population size of the species, rate of decline and geographic range. "This is insufficient," assert Alexander Harcourt and Sean Parks of the University of California, usa. They cite the example of a house that has been left unlocked. The house is vulnerable to burglary, but it only becomes threatened when there is a thief nearby. In the same way, animals (susceptible to extinction) only become threatened when they are being poached or their habitat is being destroyed.

Craig Hilton-Taylor, Red List programme officer for the uk, says that iucn has a specific cataloguing system for such threats, which runs parallel to the Red List classification. Besides this, the list is considered valuable because comparisons with past assessments can be made. "Changing the criteria would make this impossible," says Hilton-Taylor.

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