31 new species added to UN protection list

Sawfish. -- PHOTO: FORREST SAMUELS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Sawfish. -- PHOTO: FORREST SAMUELS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Hammerhead shark, Cocos Island, Costa Rica. -- PHOTO: BARRY PETERS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Hammerhead shark, Cocos Island, Costa Rica. -- PHOTO: BARRY PETERS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Saiga antelope. -- PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS
Saiga antelope. -- PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS
Saiga antelope. -- PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS
Saiga antelope. -- PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS
Bactrian camels at Highland Wildlife Park, Scotland. -- PHOTO: AARON SNEDDON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Bactrian camels at Highland Wildlife Park, Scotland. -- PHOTO: AARON SNEDDON/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Saker falcon in a zoo. -- PHOTO: MARC HAISENKO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Saker falcon in a zoo. -- PHOTO: MARC HAISENKO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Loggerhead sea turtle. -- PHOTO: UKANDA/CREATIVE COMMONS
Loggerhead sea turtle. -- PHOTO: UKANDA/CREATIVE COMMONS
European Eel. -- PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS
European Eel. -- PHOTO: CREATIVE COMMONS
The Ugandan kob. -- PHOTO: FRANK DICKERT/CREATIVE COMMONS
The Ugandan kob. -- PHOTO: FRANK DICKERT/CREATIVE COMMONS
Canada warbler. -- PHOTO: EMMETT HUME/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Canada warbler. -- PHOTO: EMMETT HUME/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
European roller. -- PHOTO: CHRISTIAN SVANE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
European roller. -- PHOTO: CHRISTIAN SVANE/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Great knot scarboro. -- PHOTO: AVICEDA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Great knot scarboro. -- PHOTO: AVICEDA/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Red-fronted gazelle. -- PHOTO: WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
Red-fronted gazelle. -- PHOTO: WIKIPEDIA COMMONS
Semipalmated Sandpiper. -- PHOTO: WILL SWEET/CREATIVE COMMONS
Semipalmated Sandpiper. -- PHOTO: WILL SWEET/CREATIVE COMMONS
Reef manta ray. -- PHOTO: SHIYAM ELKCLONER/CREATIVE COMMONS
Reef manta ray. -- PHOTO: SHIYAM ELKCLONER/CREATIVE COMMONS
Great bustard at Beijing Zoo. -- PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Great bustard at Beijing Zoo. -- PHOTO: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
Alaska may be cold but polar bears are equipped to handle the weather. -- PHOTO: HANDOUT
Alaska may be cold but polar bears are equipped to handle the weather. -- PHOTO: HANDOUT
A polar bear takes a sun bath at Moscow's zoo on Sept 12, 2014, in Moscow. -- PHOTO: AFP
A polar bear takes a sun bath at Moscow's zoo on Sept 12, 2014, in Moscow. -- PHOTO: AFP

QUITO, Ecuador (AFP) - Polar bears, whales, sharks and gazelles are among 31 new species granted new protection status by the United Nations' conservation body, following six days of "intense" talks by leading conservationists.

The UN Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) said on Sunday that the "intense negotiations" led to new protection for scores of bird, fish and mammal migratory species.

A record 21 species of shark, ray and sawfish were added to the list. The polar bear, which is found in the Arctic, and the widely-distributed Cuvier's beaked whale made the list too, as well as the red-fronted gazelle, common in Africa, and the great bustard, found in Europe and Asia.

Protecting these animals is key for overall environmental conservation.

"Migratory animals have become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time," said CMS executive secretary Bradnee Chambers. "From plastic pollution in our oceans, to the effects of climate change, to poaching and over-exploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all."

More than 900 experts from 120 countries met for the six-day meeting, approving all but one proposed species to be included on the protected wildlife list.

The African lion did not make the final cut because there was not enough information from the countries where it lives.

The conference held in Quito, Ecuador, was the best-attended in the body's 35-year history, and CMS hailed the "unprecedented" level of attention to the topic.

Mr Achim Steiner, director of the UN Environment Programme, which administers CMS, said global interest in animal protection was crucial.

"The responsibility for protecting wildlife is a shared one, and the threats to wildlife can be tackled most effectively through global cooperation," he said.