4 May 2006

Pacific countries feature with worst records on endangered species

7:19 pm on 4 May 2006

Australia has topped the red list of threatened species in the Oceania region, followed by Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia.

The world's biodiversity agency, the World Conservation Union, has named more than 16,000 at-risk species globally - over six hundred of which are in Australia, 266 in New Caledonia and 301 in Papua New Guinea.

French Polynesia, Fiji and New Zealand have between one and two hundred species on the list with Nauru and Tokelau at the bottom with seven apiece.

Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands have the highest numbers of mammals facing extinction, whilst New Zealand, Australia and French Polynesia have over thirty species of birds at risk.

Species include the southern blue fin tuna, the leather back turtle, the fruit bat, the manta ray and the king rat.

GhiflaineLlewellyn of the World Wildlife Fund in Australia says the red list is an early warning system showing that biodiversity loss is increasing, not slowing down.

However, she says some positive steps are being taken and the Pacific Island nations are leading the way in marine conservation.

"Pacific Island nations have been some of the strongest voices calling for positive conservation management measures across the Pacific Ocean and that's very encouraging and I think some other fishing nations have alot to learn from the practices that are being carried out by the Pacific Islands."

Ghiflaine Llewellyn of the World Wildlife Fund in Australia.