News Release

2015 IUCN Species Highlights

12 January 2016
2015 IUCN species highlights
Photo: IUCN

Throughout 2015, the IUCN Global Species Programme and Species Survival Commission (SSC) have been working together tirelessly toward the mission of reducing the loss of diversity of life on earth. Below is a summary of some of the key events and achievements.

Updates to The IUCN Red List

The IUCN Red List was updated three times in 2015. The IUCN Red List now includes 79,837 assessed species, of which 23,250 are threatened with extinction, with habitat loss and degradation identified as the main threat to more than 80% of species assessed.


There were several exciting fundraising developments for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2015. We ran two successful online campaigns and raised USD 50,000 to help complete the IUCN Red List assessment of all bumblebee species, and to help with the assessment of all 750 species of carnivorous plants, many of which are highly threatened by poaching and habitat loss.


In October, the IUCN Red List joined the growing list of open access online scientific publications with its own International Standard Serial Number (ISSN 2307-8235). All current global assessments published on The IUCN Red List can now be downloaded as stand-alone PDF documents, each with its own unique DOI reference, making them permanently retrievable and easier to cite.

Two major new reports raised a warning flag for Europe’s biodiversity - the European Red List of Marine Fishes and the European Red List of Bees. A study led by IUCN made a big splash by measuring the impact of conservation action on the extinction risk of the world’s ungulates. The results were dramatic, showing that at least 65% of species would have deteriorated seriously in the absence of ongoing conservation efforts. The first complete assessment of freshwater shrimps revealed that 28% of the world’s 763 freshwater shrimp species are threatened with extinction. A paper on the state of the world’s cactus species by IUCN and partners revealed that 31% of the world’s cacti are threatened with extinction.

The conservation strategy for the Critically Endangered Crau Plain Grasshopper (Prionotropis rhodanica) developed by the Species Conservation Planning Sub‐Committee (SCPSC) and the IUCN SSC Grasshopper Specialist Group, was approved by the regional committee of the Ministry of Ecology, in effect making it official French policy.


In 2014, IUCN made two high‐level interventions on the Critically Endangered Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), requesting both the Premier of the Peoples’ Republic of China and the President of Mexico to take urgent measures to stop the illegal trade in Totoaba (Totoaba macdonaldi) swim bladders (“maw”). As a result of these two interventions, significant progress has been made in 2015. China has been cooperating with Mexico and the United States to combat the illegal trade in Totoaba maw. Retail outlets selling the maw have been identified, and as of October 2015, proceedings started to prosecute two of them. In Mexico, effective measures to prevent the illegal gillnet fishery for Totoaba are finally being implemented.

In May 2015, at the request of the SSC Carnivorous Plant Specialist Group, the IUCN Director General and the SSC Chair wrote to the Prime Minister of Thailand concerning plans to expand a prison that would potentially wipe out a Critically Endangered pitcher plant, Nepenthes suratensis. The response of the prison authorities has been positive and plans are in place to avoid damage to the plants and to secure their protection.

Illegal wildlife trade

In 2015, the IUCN SSC continued to be heavily engaged in the work of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), including the 28th meeting of the Animals Committee, the 22nd meeting of Plants Committee, and ongoing participation in the Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) programme by the African and Asian Elephant Specialist Groups.

Work with United for Wildlife (UfW) also included a major focus on addressing the African Elephant poaching crisis. In addition, the African and Asian Rhino Specialist Groups have been advising on the development of the concept of a Rhino Conservation Bond (RCB), which is intended to be a new innovative funding mechanism to support rhino conservation at critical sites based on objective measures of conservation success. Other SSC contributions to UfW in 2015 include the production of 500 quiz questions for a ‘QuizUp’ social media game on ‘Wildlife in Crisis’ launched by UfW in October 2015 to raise awareness of illegal trade in wildlife among new and youth audiences.

The Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) convened an international symposium called "Beyond Enforcement: Communities, Governance, Incentives and Sustainable Use in Combating Wildlife Crime". The symposium explored analyses and case studies on communities and wildlife crime and generated a set of key conclusions and recommendations, which SULi are now taking forward in a number of policy and decision‐making arenas.

On-the-ground conservation action

In 2015, IUCN’s SOS-Save Our Species grew its portfolio to almost 100 conservation projects including several new Rapid Action Grants and eleven Lemur projects under its Special Initiative SOS Lemurs. It also recorded a variety of successes from numerous current grantees working on the frontlines protecting more than 250 threatened species of plants and animals. For example, across Africa, different grantees reported on the arrests and prosecutions of various wildlife criminals trafficking ivory, animal skins, living parrots and cycads. In Liberia, a single camera trap photo of an Endangered Pygmy Hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) sparked the successful creation of the Wonegizi Protected Area.

Good progress has been made on IUCN’s new Tiger conservation initiative. The Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP), funded by KfW and the German Government, is working towards the goal set by the international community to double the number of Tigers in the wild by 2022. The first five conservation projects were launched in 2015 and EUR 6.24 million will be injected into key Tiger habitats and their surroundings in India (Manas National Park), Bhutan (Royal Manas National Park), Myanmar (Htamanti Wildlife Sanctuary region, Tanintharyi National Park) and Indonesia (Rimbang Baling landscape in Central Sumatra) to improve the management of habitats, support local communities with alternative livelihoods and tackle poaching.

See the full summary of IUCN Species highlights here.

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