How Critically Endangered Is The Wildlife Heritage Of South Africa?

Today, Friday, May 18, the world commemorates Endangered Species Day. In South Africa, the future of many of our most fabulous creatures is in the balance.

According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s red data list of South African mammals, 17% are considered to be endangered with extinction and 10% are imminently threatened. Birdlife SA’s research reveals that 132 endangered species are listed as regionally endangered, of which 47 are considered near endangered. The number of bird species in the critically endangered category has increased from five to 13 since 2000.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, show that 281 species with some or all of their range in South Africa are currently classified on the Red List as critically endangered or endangered. Of these, 209 are critically endangered.

What are ‘Endangered Species’?

The IUCN Red List has appraised 91 523 species, with the aim to assess 160 000 by 2020. Those that have been accessed are then divided into categories depending on their conservation status. These categories, as described by the IUCN have become the global standard for classifying species according to their vulnerability on earth.

In 2007 the Lists of Critically Endangered, Endangered, Vulnerable and Protected Species was published. The IUCN classification of critically endangered, endangered and vulnerable is reflected in this list.

The IUCN defines an ‘endangered species’ is one where the best available evidence shows that the species is deemed at a very high risk of extinction in the wild. This is based on estimations which account for population size, geographic range and measurable analysis showing a high possibility of extinction in the wild.

Species listed as ‘Critically Endangered’, ‘Endangered’ or ‘Vulnerable’ all form part of a group considered as ‘threatened’ species. To show the extent of the conservation crises in Africa, and South Africa, four of the Big Five are currently considered ‘threatened’.

  • African Elephant – Vulnerable
  • African Lion – Vulnerable
  • African Leopard- Vulnerable
  • Southern White Rhino – Near Threatened while the Eastern Black Rhino – Critically Endangered
  • Only the African Buffalo is classified under Least Concern
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