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From turtles to fruit bats, migratory species are increasingly threatened, says UN | The threatened species

More than a fifth of migratory species under international protection are at risk of extinction, including almost all nomadic fish, according to the first assessment by UN experts.

From humpback whales to Dalmatian pelicans, every year, billions of animals travel through the seasons on the oceans, on land and in the skies. But a new report from the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) reveals that many migratory species are at risk of extinction, threatened by human pollution, the spread of invasive species and the climate crisis.

The assessment of migratory animals protected by the treaty found that 22% of the 1,189 species listed by CMS are threatened with extinction and almost half, or 44%, are showing population declines, with many they are under unsustainable pressure due to habitat loss and overexploitation. Up to 97% of the sharks, rays and sturgeons on the list face a high risk of extinction, with their populations having declined by 90% since the 1970s.

Wildlife can cover enormous distances during migration, culminating in some of nature’s most spectacular journeys, such as that of a million wildebeest traveling from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya, and the Pacific salmon traveling upriver to breed on the west coast of the United States.

During the annual migration, more than a million wildebeest make their round trip from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara. Photography: Eyal Bartov/Alamy

Gorillas and nearly half of all turtles covered by the convention are in danger of extinction, according to the analysis, while among those experiencing decline are the bar-tailed godwit, which flies more than 8,000 miles non-stop between Alaska and Australia, the straw-colored fruit bat. , which undertakes the largest mammal migration across Africa, and the European eel, a critically endangered species.

The report comes as governments meet for a summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, to discuss how to better protect the world’s migratory species. Executive secretary Amy Fraenkel told the Guardian that the trend toward increasing extinction risk was a “great cause for concern” but that governments could also do much to counter the decline.

“The reason species are covered by the convention is because they are in trouble – not surprisingly, some of them are endangered. The problem is the trend: 44% of listed species are in decline and this increasing risk of extinction applies globally to migratory species,” Fraenkel said.

“Three out of four species are affected by habitat loss, seven out of 10 are affected by overexploitation, which includes the intentional killing of species through hunting or poisoning, as well as bycatch. People may not realize that whales, lions, gorillas, giraffes and many birds are migratory species… This is a huge cause for concern,” she said.

Thousands of knots take flight during a ‘Snettisham spectacular’ in Norfolk. The birds migrate from the Arctic to spend the winter in the estuary. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

To conserve those that remain and help populations recover, the report’s authors recommend that human infrastructure on major flyways, swimming routes and flyways be minimized. They also said more work should be done to understand areas crucial to migration and better protect them. Despite conservation efforts, 70 recorded species, including the steppe eagle, Egyptian vulture and wild camel, have seen their populations decline over the past 30 years.

Inger Andersen, UN environment chief, said: “The global community has an opportunity to translate this latest scientific knowledge… into concrete conservation actions. Given the precarious situation of many of these animals, we cannot afford to wait. »

Fraenkel added: “There are many things that need to be done to address the drivers of environmental change, like agriculture for habitat destruction, urban sprawl, we need to look at railways, roads and fences. One of the most important things for migratory species is what we call ecosystem integrity: they need particular sites to breed, feed and move. If these sites are not accessible or no longer exist, this is obviously going to be detrimental.”

The convention covers migratory species that require international coordination to protect their survival. The report’s authors identified 399 threatened migratory species that are not listed in the convention.

Find more Age of Extinction coverage here and follow biodiversity reporters Phoebe Weston And Patrick Greenfield on X for all the latest news and features

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