Endangered Species

By Cynthia Kirk

This is the VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT.

The World Conservation Union says the world is facing an environmental crisis. It says more than eleven-thousand kinds of plants and animals are at risk of disappearing forever. And more than four-thousand species are close to being declared threatened.

The World Conservation Union released a report about the crisis last month. Its so-called Red List identifies those species that are in danger of being lost. The study examined eighteen-thousand organisms around the world. The group says human activity already has forced more than eight-hundred species to disappear in the past five-hundred years.

The World Conservation Union says the number of endangered species has increased since it published its last report four years ago. For example, the number of endangered monkeys and apes has risen fifty percent. The rise is mostly the result of the destruction of forests. Monkeys, apes and many other animals are also being killed for their meat.

The conservation group says the number of endangered freshwater turtles is two times as high as it was four years ago. The turtles are used in Southeast Asia for food and medicines.

But environmentalists say the endangered species list is just the beginning. They note that there are millions of species yet to be discovered. And they say many of those may already be threatened.

The World Conservation Union says Indonesia, India, Brazil and China are among the countries with the most threatened animals and birds. It says plant species are decreasing quickly in South and Central America, Central and West Africa and Southeast Asia.

World Conservation Union experts say species also are being lost in North America and Europe.

Experts say the destruction of forests and the environment is the biggest cause of species loss. And they say there is evidence of species loss because of dams and other changes to rivers.

But experts say there is hope. They say some species are recovering. One of these is the California condor, a bird in North America. And they say the white rhinoceros has been taken off the endangered list in South Africa. Experts say the situation can be changed if more measures are taken to protect the environment.

This VOA Special English ENVIRONMENT REPORT was written by Cynthia Kirk.