WWF reaction to IUCN Red List Update (Dec 2023)

Posted on December, 12 2023

Released during COP28, the IUCN Red List Update in December 2023 highlights the increasing threat posed by climate change to biodiversity while focusing on assessments of freshwater fishes, Atlantic salmon and green turtles in the Pacific. The update also showcases two antelope success stories (scimitar-horned oryx and the saiga) and the unsustainable harvest of big-leaf mahogany.


Commenting on conservation successes, Dr. Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Lead said:


“The return of the scimitar-horned oryx, once extinct in the wild, is a powerful example of what long term commitment to effective conservation approaches and dedicated species recovery actions can deliver.


The continued resurgence of the saiga antelope too is welcome news. However, the vulnerability of the species to disease outbreaks and the still-critically endangered status of the Mongolian subspecies means there is no room for complacency. Given the right tools and approaches, applied at scale, species recovery actions can work, and wildlife can thrive. Together we can reverse the extinction crisis and restore a thriving planet, doing so is in our own interest."


Commenting on the state of the world’s freshwater fish species, Stuart Orr, WWF Global Freshwater Lead said:


“Freshwater fishes are in freefall with one quarter of all species now threatened with extinction. This devastating news is the clearest sign of the damage we have done to our rivers, lakes and wetlands - ecosystems that not only sustain freshwater fishes and a dazzling diversity of other wildlife but also underpin our societies and economies.


Out-of-sight and out-of-mind, freshwater fishes have always been undervalued even though they are critical to the functioning of their ecosystems and provide food for 200 million people and livelihoods for 60 million. The shocking state of the World’s Forgotten Fishes must serve as a wake up call: decision makers must urgently scale up investment in protecting and restoring healthy rivers, lakes and wetlands. This will safeguard our vanishing freshwater fishes, but will also enhance water and food security, reverse nature loss and accelerate climate action. 


Here at COP28, 38 countries have now joined the Freshwater Challenge - the most ambitious freshwater protection and restoration initiative in history. We need all countries to follow their lead because reversing the degradation of freshwater ecosystems will pave the way to a net-zero, nature-positive and resilient future.”


Commenting on Central South Pacific and Eastern Pacific green turtles at risk of extinction, Christine Hof, WWF Global Marine Turtle Conservation Lead said:


“As a highly migratory species, assessments of marine turtle subpopulations are crucial in order to obtain more precise information about their risk of extinction and the regional threats they face. While considered endangered globally, today’s announcement by the IUCN adds to this body of knowledge with the listing of Central South Pacific and Eastern Pacific green turtles as Endangered and Vulnerable, respectively. Three other Red List assessments have been undertaken for the Hawaiian, North Indian Ocean and South Atlantic subpopulations. Although these ancient mariners have survived for millions of years, green turtles and other marine turtle species continue to be threatened by the risk of extinction. 


“Knowing the status of these new green turtle subpopulations and the threats we need to address will provide communities, researchers and government with the knowledge needed to arrest declines and bend the curve towards recovery. 


“WWF has been working on marine turtle conservation for more than 50 years. We are committed to stopping the decline of marine turtles globally, work for the recovery of the species, and secure habitats and conditions – both ecological and social – in which turtles, and the people that depend upon them, can survive into the future.”




Notes to editors:


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