Endangered Species Statistics
As of its current 2008 Red List of Threatened Species, the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN) has evaluated 44,838 species. Of the total species included, 16,928 are listed as threatened, an increase of 620 species since 2007. The Western Lowland gorilla, Cross River gorilla and Sumatran orangutan were all newly designated in 2007 as critically endangered, while the Bornean orangutan has been classified as endangered. Poaching and a disappearing habitat due to human encroachment are considered the primary threats to these and other species.
In total, seventy-six species showed decline in the 2007 Red List, seventy-four improved in status, and one plant species, the Wooly-stalked Begonia, last seen growing on a single island in Malaysia in 1898, has been declared extinct. The baiji, or Yangtze River dolphin of China, the world's most endangered whale, has been reclassified from critically endangered to possibly extinct, with no confirmed sightings since 2002. In addition, the polar bear, added to the threatened list for the first time in 2006 due to increasing habitat destruction from climate change, remained in its new classification on the 2007 list.
It is widely feared that polar bears will become victims of global warming, but there may be a positive side to the situation. The polar bear's plight may have a lasting effect on global awareness of the importance of conservation. Like giant pandas and tigers, polar bears are what conservationists refer to as "charismatic mega-fauna." In other words, people identify emotionally with polar bears more than they might with an endangered salamander, coral, plant, or toad. Faced with the clear connection between carbon emissions, climate change, and the bears' lives, individual people may make the necessary changes to ensure their survival.