Threat to the Amazon’s birds is greater than ever

The risk of extinction has increased substantially for nearly 100 species of Amazonian birds, reveals the 2012 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ update for birds released today by BirdLife International. The new assessment is based on models projecting the extent and pattern of deforestation across the Amazon.

female Restinga Antwren (Formicivora littoralis)

 Of particular concern are species with longer life spans, such as Rio Branco Antbird (Cercomacra carbonaria), for which even moderate rates of deforestation can be important. Some species, such as Hoary-throated Spinetail (Synallaxis kollari), appear likely to lose more than 80% of their habitat over the coming decades and have been placed in the highest category of extinction risk – Critically Endangered.

“BirdLife are providing essential information to guide policy and conservation action for birds,” says Jane Smart, Global Director of IUCN’s Biodiversity Conservation Group. “It is clear that conservation works, but more action is needed if we are to protect these magnificent species which play an integral role in maintaining healthy ecosystems on which both birds and humans depend.”

The 2012 update is a comprehensive review of the world’s 10,000-plus bird species, undertaken once every four years. The update shows worrying declines not just from the tropics, but also in Northern Europe. Over one million Long-tailed Ducks (Clangula hyemalis) have disappeared from the Baltic Sea over the last 20 years, resulting in the species being uplisted to Vulnerable. The reasons for this decline are still not clear, but the outlook for another sea duck, Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca) is even worse, as the species is now listed as Endangered.

In Africa, the White-backed and Rueppell's Vultures, (Gyps africanus and G. rueppellii), are mirroring the fate of their Asian cousins, with rapid declines linked to poisoning and habitat loss. Both species have been reclassified as Endangered. Their declines have a wide impact, since vultures play a key role in the food chain by feeding on dead animals.

“We have previously underestimated the risk of extinction that many of Amazonia’s bird species are facing,” says Dr. Leon Bennun, BirdLife’s Director of Science, Policy and Information. “However, given recent weakening of Brazilian forest law, the situation may be even worse than recent studies have predicted.”

However, not all the news is bad. Restinga Antwren (Formicivora littoralis), a small bird from coastal, south-east Brazil, has been downlisted from Critically Endangered, as new surveys have found it to be more widely distributed than previously thought. Its future also looks more secure due to the creation of a new protected area covering its core distribution.

There are also examples of a species’ fate being turned around despite insurmountable odds. In the Cook Islands of the Pacific, the sustained recovery of Raratonga Monarch (Pomarea dimidiate), once one of the world’s rarest birds, has led to it being downlisted to Vulnerable. Intensive conservation action, particularly through control of alien invasive predators like black rats, has saved the species from extinction. The bird’s population is now about 380 individuals—over ten times larger than at its low point, although continued conservation efforts are still required.

“Such successes show the remarkable achievements that are possible where effort and dedication by conservationists and local communities are backed up with political support and adequate resources,” says Dr. Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Global Research Coordinator. “But the worrying projections for the Amazon emphasize the urgent need for governments to meet their international commitments by establishing comprehensive protected area networks that are adequately funded and effectively managed.”

Total number of species recognised by BirdLife in the 2012 Red List update is 10,064. Number of species by category as follows: Extinct 130; Extinct in Wild 4; Critically Endangered 197; Endangered 389; Vulnerable 727; Near Threatened 880; Least Concern 7,677; Data Deficient 60.

Issues involving species survival and conservation will be discussed at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, Republic of Korea, from 6 to 15 September 2012.

For more information or interviews please contact:
• Maggie Roth, IUCN Media Relations, m +41 79 104 2460, e  
• Martin Fowlie, Birdlife Communications Officer, t +44 (0)1223 279813, e

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