First Assessment of Europe's Threatened Mammals Underway

GLAND, Switzerland, September 15, 2005 (ENS) - The first-ever assessment of European mammals is about to be conducted by the organization that maintains the world's most comprehensive database of threatened and endangered species. The IUCN-World Conservation Union said today that scientists specializing in the mammals of Europe will explore the conservation status of the continent's approximately 281 mammal species.

They include a high number of threatened native species found nowhere else on Earth, among them the world's most endangered big cat - the Iberian lynx. Only around 250 individual lynx remain - habitat fragmentation has reduced their numbers to a critical level.

Europe also has bears, wolves, foxes, weasels, horses, donkeys, squirrels, mice, beavers, porcupines, bats, hedgehogs and shrews, among others. European marine mammals include walrus and seven species of seals.


The Iberian lynx is teetering on the brink of extinction as road kill, habitat loss, and scarcity of its prey species take their toll. (Photo by Jesus Coba courtesy WWF-Canon)
The European Mammals Assessment will be conducted over the coming 15 months by IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) experts, and is funded by the European Union.

The IUCN Regional Office for Europe and SSC scientists, together with IUCN Species Programme staff will jointly undertake the assessment in the framework of the pan-European initiative "Countdown 2010 - Halt the loss of biodiversity."

The IUCN quoted the author of the concept of sustainable development, former Norwegian Prime Minister Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, today, who said, "The library of life is burning, and we don't even know the titles of the books."

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and its partners have a unique tool to gather knowledge about plants and animals: the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Two major products will arise from this assessment, the group said, the first European Red List of Threatened Species and the Red List indices.

The Red List indices show how the status of threatened species has changed over time. This will indicate whether Europe and its member countries will meet their 2010 commitment to halt the loss of biodiversity.

The project would be a central part of efforts to monitor biological diversity by the European Environment Agency and, on a global level, by the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Assessment of other groups of European species such as freshwater fish and reptiles, will also be carried out between 2005 and 2007, the IUCN said.

The project is pan-European in scope and about 350,000 euros of co-funding per year is still needed for 2006, 2007 and 2008 for the assessment of all species groups. Some of IUCNís state members have expressed interest in funding parts of the work.

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