Tigers, polar bears and blue fin tuna among most threatened species in 2010, says WWF

by WWF Bolivia
(Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia)

PHOTO: © MICHEL GUNTHER / WWF CANON

PHOTO: © MICHEL GUNTHER / WWF CANON

Iconic animal populations being decimated by habitat loss and poaching: Climate Change emerges as clear threat on WWF?s Annual Watch List

WASHINGTON D.C.? WWF today released its annual list of some of the most threatened species around the world, saying that the long-term survival of many animals is increasingly in doubt due to a host of threats, including climate change, and calling for a step up in efforts to save some of the world?s most threatened animals.

WWF?s list of ?10 to Watch in 2010? includes such well-known and beloved species as tigers, polar bears, pandas, and rhinos, as well as lesser-known species such as bluefin tuna and mountain gorillas. WWF scientists say these, and many other species, are at greater risk than ever before because of habitat loss, poaching, and climate change-related threats. This year?s watch list includes five species directly impacted by climate change, as well as the monarch butterfly, the species at the center of an endangered biological phenomenon. Tigers are at the forefront of this year?s list, with the official Year of the Tiger slated to begin in February 2010.

?We have an urgent window of opportunity in which to step up and pull back some of the world?s most splendid animals from the brink of extinction,? says Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, WWF?s Managing Director of Species Conservation. ?We urge everyone who wants to live in a world with tigers, polar bears, and pandas to make it their New Year?s resolution to save these amazing and threatened species before it?s too late.?



WWF?s ?Ten to Watch in 2010? list:



Tiger

New studies indicate that there may be as few as 3,200 tigers (Panthera tigris) left in the wild. Tigers occupy less than seven percent of their original range, which has decreased by 40 percent over the past ten years. Accelerating deforestation and rampant poaching could push some tiger populations to the same fate as its now-extinct Javan and Balinese relatives in other parts of Asia. Tigers are poached for their body parts, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine, while skins are also highly prized. Additionally, sea level rise, due to climate change, threatens the mangrove habitat of a key tiger population in Bangladesh?s and India?s Sundarbans. The upcoming Year of the Tiger, 2010, will mark an important year for conservation efforts to save wild tigers, with WWF continuing to play a vital role in implementing bold new strategies to save this magnificent Asian big cat.







Polar Bear

The Arctic?s polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have become the iconic symbol of early victims of climate-induced habitat loss. Designated a threatened species for protection by the Endangered Species Act in the U.S., polar bears will be vulnerable to extinction within the next century, if warming trends in the Arctic continue at the current pace. WWF is supporting field research to understand how climate change will affect polar bears and to develop adaptation strategies. WWF also works to protect critical polar bear habitat by working with governments and industry to reduce threats from shipping and oil and gas development in the region and with local communities to reduce human-bear conflict in areas where bears are already stranded on land for longer periods of time due to lack of ice.



Pacific Walrus

The Arctic?s Bering and Chuckchi Seas are home to the Pacific walrus (Odobenus rosmarus divergens), one of the latest victims of climate change. In September of this year, up to 200 dead walruses were spotted on the shore of the Chuckchi Sea on Alaska?s northwest coast. These animals use floating ice for resting, birthing and nursing calves, and protection from predators. With Arctic ice melting, the Pacific walrus is experiencing habitat loss to the extent that in September 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that adding the walrus to the Endangered Species Act may be warranted.

Magellanic Penguin
Once threatened primarily by oil spills, Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus), now face a larger threat as fish are displaced by warming ocean currents, forcing the birds to swim farther to find food. Last year hundreds of Magellanic penguins washed up on beaches around Rio de Janeiro, many emaciated or dead. Scientists have speculated that changes in ocean currents or temperatures, which may be related to climate change, could have been responsible for their movement more than a thousand miles north of their traditional nesting area in the southern tip of Argentina. Twelve out of the 17 penguin species are currently experiencing rapid population decline.

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