Six of the most abundant species of ash trees in North America are on the brink of extinction, decimated by an invasive beetle, the emerald ash borer, according to the latest update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. Also added to the list are five African antelope species, dozens of Madagascan grasshoppers and millipedes, and more than 100 other plant and animal species.
In total, the IUCN’s Red List now includes more than 25,000 species categorized as endangered or at risk of extinction. Scientists estimate that due to habitat loss, hunting, climate change, and pollution, half of all animals on the planet have been lost in the past 40 years.
“Our activities as humans are pushing species to the brink so fast that it’s impossible for conservationists to assess the declines in real time,” Inger Andersen, the director of the IUCN, said in a statement. “Even those species that we thought were abundant and safe – such as antelopes in Africa or ash trees in the U.S. – now face an imminent threat of extinction.”
The update to the Red List did bring some good news: Snow leopards have been moved from the “endangered” to “vulnerable” category, thanks to anti-poaching efforts and community outreach initiatives. The flying fox on the Mauritian Island of Rodrigues also improved from “critically endangered” to “endangered” due to reforestation programs.