PARIS, November 10, 2011 (AFP) – Several species of rhino have been poached into extinction or to the point of no return, according to an update of the Red List of Threatened Species, the gold standard for animal and plant conservation. All told, a quarter of all mammal species assessed are at risk of extinction, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which compiles the list, said on Thursday.
About a third of the 61,900 species now catalogued by the IUCN are classified as “vulnerable,” “endangered,” “critically endangered,” or extinct, with some groups, such as amphibians and reptiles, in particularly rapid decline.
Rhinoceros have been hit especially hard in recent years. Their fearsome horns — prized for dagger handles in the Middle East and traditional medicine in east Asia — can fetch hundreds of thousands of dollars on the black market.
The new assessment shows that a subspecies of the western black rhino (Diceros bicornis longipes) native to western Africa is now extinct, joining a long list of creatures — from the Tasmanian tiger to the Arabian gazelle — that no longer stride the planet.
Central Africa’s northern white rhino (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is listed as “possibly extin