UN Report: Decline of Migratory Species and Rising Global Extinction Risk

The recently concluded UN wildlife conservation conference launched the inaugural State of the World’s Migratory Species report by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP14) in Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

This conference marked a significant global biodiversity gathering since the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Central Asia, the conference’s host, is home to diverse migratory species, including the Saiga Antelope, Snow Leopard, and various migratory birds.

The report offers a comprehensive overview of the conservation status, population trends, main threats, and successful conservation actions for migratory animals worldwide. Overexploitation and habitat loss due to human activity emerged as the primary threats to both CMS-listed and all migratory species.

Notably, 51% of Key Biodiversity Areas important for CMS-listed migratory animals lack protected status, while 58% of monitored sites face unsustainable human-caused pressures.

While some migratory species listed under CMS show improvement, nearly half exhibit population declines, and over a fifth are threatened with extinction. Alarmingly, 97% of CMS-listed fish face extinction threats.

migratory species
Blue Shark © Alessandro Cere

Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme emphasized the urgent need for concrete conservation action to address these unsustainable human activities jeopardizing the future of these species.

Migratory species play crucial roles in ecosystem maintenance, providing essential services like pollination, nutrient transport, pest control, and carbon sequestration. Compiled by conservation scientists at the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), the report utilizes robust species datasets and expert contributions from institutions such as BirdLife International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Focusing primarily on the 1,189 animal species recognized by CMS Parties as needing international protection, the report also includes analysis related to over 3,000 additional non-CMS mobile moving species.

Amy Fraenkel, CMS Executive Secretary, stressed the challenges these species face due to habitat-specific requirements throughout their lifecycles and highlighted the need for international collaboration to ensure their survival.

migratory species
Steppe Eagles © Rakesh Sharma/Getty Images

Over the past three decades, 70 CMS-listed mobile moving species, including the steppe eagle and Egyptian vulture, have become more endangered, while only 14 have shown improved conservation statuses, such as blue and humpback whales. Disturbingly, nearly all CMS-listed fish species, including migratory sharks, rays, and sturgeons, face high extinction risks, with populations declining by 90% since the 1970s.

The report underscores human activities, particularly overexploitation and habitat loss, as primary drivers of mobile moving species decline. A critical priority is to identify and protect crucial breeding, feeding, and stopover sites for migratory species. While nearly 10,000 Key Biodiversity Areas worldwide are vital for CMS-listed migratory species, over half are not designated as protected areas, and 58% of monitored sites face threats from human activities.

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