Science

Polar bears gain 'vulnerable' status on world list of endangered species

Polar bears, hippos among the 530 species added to World Conservation Union's Red List of endangered species.

Polar bears, a source of pride in the North, are being added to an international list of species at risk of extinction.

Polar bears and hippos are among the 530 species added to the World Conservation Union, or IUCN, "Red List" of endangered species.

The group released an update to its list on Tuesday, the first in two years.

If climate change trends continue, the environmental group predicts polar bear populations will decline by more than 30 per cent in the next 45 years.

The majestic animals need ice caps for habitat.

The latest revision lists the polar bear as a "vulnerable" species, one level down from the "endangered" ranking.

Until now, polar bears were listed in the less-severe "conservation dependent" category.

The group estimates more than 16,000 species of plants and animals are at risk, including one in four mammals and one in eight birds.

The common hippo also earned a vulnerable ranking, mainly because of a "catastrophic decline" in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where hunting has led to a 95 per cent decline in the country's hippo population since 1994, the report said.

Poaching also means dama gazelles are now "critically endangered," the report's authors say.

In the Mediterranean, 25 species of freshwater species are at risk. In East Africa, one quarter of freshwater fish are also at risk, says the report, which notes ocean life like sharks are also vulnerable.

On the brighter side, conservation measures in Europe have helped populations of white-tailed eagles to recover, the group's director-general, Achim Steiner, said.

The list is produced in consultation with 7,000 experts working around the world.

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