The IUCN’s latest update, released last week, shows that among the plants, trees, insects and animals declining in range and population, five antelope species including the giant eland are in trouble.
The common eland is immortalised in rock art painting thousands of years ago and spread across a fairly wide range in South Africa including the Drakensberg and its foothills in KwaZulu-Natal. According to the lnternational Union for Conservation, its close relative the giant eland - which is native to central and western Africa - is listed as vulnerable and now has an estimated global population of between 12 000 and 14 000 at most, with fewer than 10 000 mature animals.
“This species is declining due to poaching for bushmeat, encroachment into protected areas and expansion of agriculture and livestock grazing. Political instability and armed conflict in Central African Republic are major barriers to protecting this species,” it said in a report on its website:
Other antelope species to get a red alert are the Mountain Reedbuck, which has seen an approximate 55% decline in its South African population over the last 15 years. It is now listed as endangered on the red list.
Heuglin's Gazelle (Eudorcas tilonura) is now endangered due to competition with domestic livestock and habitat degradation; the Southern Lechwe, which will be known to many visitors to the Okavango Delta, is now listed as near threatened due to poaching, agricultural expansion, livestock grazing and droughts; and the Grey Rhebok (endemic to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Swaziland) is now in the near threatened category.
The IUCN said in its report that the reasons for the decline of this species are poorly understood, and may include increases in illegal sport hunting with dogs, and poaching for bushmeat.
Other species mentioned that are coming under increasing pressure include: Various Madagascan grasshoppers and millipedes, and North America’s most widespread and valuable ash tree species. Five of the most prominent ash tree species are now critically endangered - just one step away from going extinct. As well as their natural beauty, these trees are renowned for their value as timber trees and for use in the production of sports equipment.
These species are being decimated by the invasive Emerald Ash Borer beetle.
“The fast-moving Emerald Ash Borer beetle arrived in Michigan from Asia in the late 1990s via infested shipping pallets. It has the potential to destroy over eight billion ash trees as it spreads rapidly and can kill nearly an entire forest stand of ash within six years of infestation,” the report read.
The Christmas Island Pipistrelle – a bat species endemic to Australia’s Christmas Island – is now extinct. Although the beautiful snow leopard has moved from endangered to vulnerable, its population continues to decline and “it still faces a high risk of extinction through habitat loss and degradation, declines in prey, competition with livestock, persecution, and poaching for illegal wildlife trade”.