Extinction crisis looms
Cape Town - With little more than a week to go before people gather to party and wish each other a happy and prosperous 2010, the future looks less than bright for many of the world's animal species and ecosystems.
"We are facing an extinction crisis," the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned on Tuesday.
It said targets to reduce the loss of biodiversity had fallen far short of what had been hoped for, and the effects of this could prove devastating.
"At risk of extinction worldwide are 21% of the world's mammals, one in three amphibians, one in eight birds and 27% of reef building corals," IUCN said in a statement, issued ahead of the launch of the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity on January 11.
The loss of complex natural diversity, which underpinned all life on the planet, was a serious threat to humankind, both now and in the future.
"Biodiversity is the basis of all life on earth. We need practical action and supportive policies to conserve species, manage and restore ecosystems, including protected areas and the wider landscape, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources," it said.
Biologists have long warned an extinction crisis is looming.
In 2002, Harvard biologist Edward Wilson estimated that at the then rates of human disruption of the biosphere, one-half of all species on the planet would be extinct by the end of this century.
Other experts say the rate of biological extinction is several hundred times beyond its historical level.
They list deforestation and other habitat destruction, hunting and poaching, the introduction of non-native species, and pollution and climate change as among the major reasons for the extinction of species.