Bee­tles threaten ash trees in US

The Herald (South Africa) - - WORLD -

AN in­va­sive beetle has driven North Amer­ica’s most wide­spread ash tree to­wards ex­tinc­tion, ex­perts said yes­ter­day, also warn­ing of dra­matic de­clines among sev­eral African an­te­lope species.

In an up­date to its “Red List” of threat­ened species, the In­ter­na­tional Union for Con­ser­va­tion of Na­ture (IUCN) said six of North Amer­ica’s most prom­i­nent ash species were now crit­i­cally en­dan­gered -- just one step from be­com­ing ex­tinct.

The species are be­ing de­stroyed by the in­va­sive and fast-mov­ing emerald ash borer beetle which ar­rived in the north­ern state of Michi­gan from Asia in the late 1990s via in­fested ship­ping pal­lets.

The IUCN high­lighted five species of African an­te­lope whose num­bers have de­clined dras­ti­cally, largely due to poach­ing and habi­tat degra­da­tion.

The world’s largest an­te­lope, the gi­ant eland, which is na­tive to central and west­ern Africa, was pre­vi­ously as­sessed as hav­ing a sound pop­u­la­tion.

It is now listed as vul­ner­a­ble, with fewer than 10 000 ma­ture an­i­mals re­main­ing.

And the moun­tain reed­buck has seen a 55% drop in its South African pop­u­la­tion over just 15 years, plac­ing it on the en­dan­gered list, the IUCN said.

The IUCN also noted sharp de­clines among Mada­gas­can grasshop­pers and mil­li­pedes, with nearly half of them listed as en­dan­gered.

The Red List, mean­while, said all hope was out for the pip­istrelle bat, which was en­demic to Aus­tralia’s Christ­mas Is­land, and which has now of­fi­cially been de­clared ex­tinct.

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