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Over 2000 species threatened with extinction

27 December 2002 Media Statement

Over 2000 species threatened with extinction

At least 2373 of New Zealand's plants and animals are threatened with extinction, says a major report released by Conservation Minister Chris Carter today.

The report is the most comprehensive list of threatened species yet compiled. It has been put together over the past year by the Department of Conservation (DoC) using a new, more sensitive system for classifying risks to species.

"We now have 2373 species, ranging from soil fungi to blue whales, that have been flagged as at risk of extinction. This is a shock because the previous classification system produced a list of about 400 species," Mr Carter said.

"Obviously, this new information is of concern and is crucial to the Government's efforts to preserve our biodiversity. Thanks to DoC's work we have a clearer picture of what species and habitats are the highest priorities for conservation."

The new classification system groups species into categories such as 'nationally critical', nationally endangered', 'gradual decline' and 'range restricted'. These categories take account of the size of a species' population, the areas of habitat occupied by a species, and its rate of population decline.

For instance, any species ranked as 'nationally critical' (of which there are 312) has a total population of less than 250 adults, an area of habitat less than one hectare as a result of human activities, or a rate of decline estimated at 80 per cent in ten years.

"Any species that meets any of these criteria, even if not currently in decline, is facing the very real threat of extinction in the near future," Mr Carter said.

"The new system also incorporates a much broader range of organisms than the old system. It classifies threats to some species of fish, marine algae and smaller snails for the first time," he said.

Among those species that are new to the endangered list are:

- The Kauru longjaw galaxid: a freshwater fish recently discovered and described as a new species. It has only been found in a single stream in Otago. The stream is subject to drying out in dry summers, and there is great concern about the fish's survival.

- The pukatea bracket fungus: a fungus with very large, woody fruiting bodies that grow as brackets on the sides of rotting trees. This species has not been seen for 30 years, and may be extinct because of habitat loss.

- Opisthoteuthis chathamensis: an octopus that has not been seen in the last two years, despite considerable effort to find it. It was formerly common at depths of around 1000 metres on the Chatham Rise, but has been brought to the brink of extinction by trawling.

- The Campbell Island snipe: a bird that was only discovered in 1997 on Jaquemart Island, offshore from Campbell Island. The island is tiny, and only a very small number of the birds survive.

- Carmichaelia hollowayi: a native broom that is threatened by quarrying, weed encroachment, and lack of legal land protection, among other things.


ENDS

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