More than 11,000
More than 11,000 species are in danger of extinction. An international meeting in November, aimed at protecting flora and fauna from illegal trade, produced mixed results. And for the animal and plant life of the northern Spanish coast, the end of 2002 was a tragedy, due to the massive oil spill caused by the tanker Prestige.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 2002 recorded 11,167 plant and animal species that are threatened with extinction, 121 more than in 2000. The saiga antelope, the wild bactrian camel and the Iberian lynx were categorized as being in “critical danger” and two species of cactus were declared extinct.
The African elephant is not ending this year very well, either. Two thousand delegates attending the 7th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) authorized a partial lifting of the ban on elephant tusk ivory exports, potentially compromising the future of this giant land mammal.
Nevertheless, at the meeting held in Santiago, Chile, Nov 3-15, substantial progress was made toward the protection of some species, including minke and bryde whales, the whale and basking sharks, and numerous types of sea horses.
It is a shame that other marine species did not end the year on a happy note. For years and perhaps decades to come, the oil spill caused by the Nov 19 sinking of the tanker Prestige off the northwest coast of Spain will continue to affect the sea flora and fauna of that region.