The world’s most vulnerable migratory species face an increasing risk of extinction, a landmark UN report warns.
From turtle doves to green turtles, from the European eel to the African penguin, migratory species are the great explorers of the animal kingdom.
They play an essential role in protecting the Earth’s habitats by transferring nutrients, pollinating and maintaining woodlands.
But decades of exploitation has left “species on the edge of extinction”.
More than 40 years ago, many of the world’s nations signed an agreement to protect the world’s migrating species, known as the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
Now, a first global assessment has been undertaken looking at the numbers and health of these animals.
Of the 1,189 species assessed, the researchers found one in five are threatened with extinction. For some species the situation is much worse – 97% of fish listed under the convention are at risk.
Amy Fraenkel, the UN Executive Secretary to the convention, told the BBC: “There has been a lack of attention for migratory species and if we don’t succeed in turning this around, we will see extinction. There are species that are already on the edge”.
The report’s overwhelming conclusion is that the decline is driven by human activity – excessive hunting and killing of animals, habitat destruction, climate change and the expansion of towns and cities bringing noise and light pollution.
Dr Rob Cooke, an ecological modeller at the UK Centre