Polar bear and hippo added to list of at-risk species

Animals and plants considered threatened with extinction now number 16,119, including 20 percent of assessed shark and ray species, the polar bear, and the common (no-longer-happy) hippopotamus. So says the latest Red List of Threatened Species, produced after two years of study by the World Conservation Union (confusingly acronymed IUCN). Unregulated global fishing is largely responsible for the shark decline; climate change in the Arctic may reduce polar bear numbers by over 30 percent in the next 45 years; and rampant hunting in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to a 95 percent decline in hippos in the country since 1994. The Red List includes one in three amphibians, one in four coniferous trees, one in eight birds, and one in four mammals (!). Oh, and 16,119 is a “massive underestimate of the true problem,” according to an IUCN researcher. The main culprits: human activity and global warming. Sigh.