The unicorn lives.
The unicorn in question is the Arabian oryx, an antelope species widely thought to be the real animal behind the legend of the unicorn. Hunted to extinction in the wild — the last wild Arabian oryx was shot dead in 1972 — the Arabian oryx has now made a comeback. Thanks to a captive breeding program, there are now 1000 living in their wild home of the Arabian peninsula.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Arabian oryx has been moved from “endangered” to the less-serious category of “vulnerable” in the latest red list of threatened species. Indeed, it’s the first time a species classified as extinct in the wild has seen such a reversal in its population.
As the Guardian notes, 19 species of frogs, toads and salamanders have been added to the red list, eight of which are critically endangered. Other species are equally threatened:
An estimated 41% of amphibians are at risk of extinction globally, making them one of the most threatened groups of species, with habitat loss, pollution, disease and invasive species all factors in their decline.
Elsewhere, two-thirds of reptiles only found in New Caledonia, in the Pacific, are at risk of extinction in the first assessment of the group of species.
The IUCN stresses that
Biodiversity loss is one of the world’s most pressing crises, with many species declining to critically low levels. Numerous extinctions are taking place unnoticed, and the number of species classified as Critically Endangered (those at most severe risk of becoming extinct) is increasing. Estimations from the IUCN Red List indicate that extinctions are happening at anywhere from 100 to 1,000 times the ‘background’ or natural rate. The causes are many, including habitat destruction, land conversion for agriculture and development, climate change, pollution, illegal wildlife trade, and the spread of invasive species.
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Photo by Yoninah (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
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