GENEVA - The mighty lion, reclusive cave crabs and the world's rarest sea lion are among nearly 23,000 species at risk of extinction, a conservation body warned.
In an update to its "Red List" of threatened species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) yesterday hailed some clear advances in saving endangered species like the Iberian Lynx. But it warned those successes have been overshadowed by declines in a range of species, with 22,784 species of animals and plants threatened with extinction.
"Our natural world is becoming increasingly vulnerable," warned IUCN chief Inger Andersen, urging more work to save species teetering on the edge.
The lion remains "vulnerable" at a global level, with its western African sub-population listed as "critically endangered" due to over-hunting and dwindling prey.
Rapid decline has also been recorded in eastern Africa, which historically has been a stronghold for lions, IUCN said, warning that trade in bones and other body parts for traditional medicine in Africa and in Asia is a new and emerging threat to the species.
It highlighted the decline in the extremely reclusive African Golden Cat, a cinnamon-coloured feline about twice the size of a house cat, which is now listed as "vulnerable".
And it pointed to the New Zealand Sea Lion - one of the rarest sea lion species in the world - which is now "endangered", due mainly to disease and changes to its habitat caused by fishing.
Also, two crab species - Karstama balicum and Karstama emdi - found only in a single cave on the island of Bali, are now "critically endangered" as they have been increasingly threatened by growing tourism and numerous religious ceremonies held in the cave.
Ms Andersen said effective conservation can yield outstanding results. After six decades of decline, the population of the Iberian Lynx, considered the world's most endangered feline, has grown from only 52 adult cats in 2002 to 156 a decade later.
Intensive work to restore the rabbit populations that the large spotted cats prey on, along with monitoring for illegal trapping and conservation breeding, has allowed the species to move from the Red List's "critically endangered" to the "endangered" category.
The Guadalupe Fur Seal, which was twice thought to be extinct due to overhunting in the late 1800s and early 1900s, has also seen its numbers increase. The silky sea mammal native to the west coast of California and off the Guadalupe islands of Mexico has moved from the "near threatened" to the "least concern" category, largely thanks to enforcement of animal protection laws.