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Reversing the Red to halt species extinction.

South Africa has done much and has lots to be proud of. But way more still needs to be


IUCN Red list

South Africa is one of only 17 megadiverse countries on earth, meaning it’s home to a

large number of species and harbours a high number of endemic species, too. Yet a

significant number of South African species face dire threats from a variety of sources

putting their very survival at risk and jeopardising South Africa’s rich and priceless natural


The was a key takeout of yesterday's South African satellite event of the Reverse the Red

World Species Congress that saw speakers from a broad range of national conservation

and biodiversity organisations, NPOS, public-sector and special interest groups come

together to take stock of the status of species conservation in South Africa; work that’s

being done to save species (some of which are on the very brink of extinction) and

address species conservation challenges that remain unmet.

Kirsty du Toit

The South African satellite event took place in the context of the White Paper on

Conservation and Sustainable Use. This Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the

Environment (DFFE) document gives four goals for conservation in South Africa:

sustainable use, access, benefit sharing and transformation.

“These goals demand that we think creatively and do things differently,” said senior DFFE

environmental consultant, Ms Mukondi Matshusa. “We need to reimagine conservation in

South Africa to ensure that conservation efforts serve communities. For our most noble

and urgent conservation work needs community support if it is to succeed.”

IUCN Red list

In setting the scene at the commencement of the South African online event, threatened

species programme manager at the SA National Biodiversity Institute, Ms Domitilla

Raimondo said that South Africa has committed to a biodiversity convention to prevent

species extinction.

This commitment includes applying action for recovery and conserving species that are

near to extinction; maintaining and restoring genetic diversity within populations and

effectively managing interaction between people and wildlife to minimise conflict and

maximise co-existence.

“It amounts to a commitment to restore what we have lost, and conserve what we have,”

Ms Raimondo told delegates.

“South Africa has made great strides in species conservation. We have the expertise, the

track record and the scientific and biodiversity proficiency to effectively halt rapid decline of

species toward extinction. We have done well and, in many respects, set best practice

standards that other regions and nations follow. However, much remains to be done."

“South Africans cannot be complacent. Guarding against extinction is a time-consuming

process that demands much. It demands collaboration and partnerships. It demands

intimate understanding of the relationship between species and human beings so that

interactions are respectful of people, their communities; and respectful of species and of

biodiversity, too. South Africa is well equipped in these areas. However, we need to

significantly scale up the national material investment in species conservation if we are to

meet our biodiversity convention commitments.”

South Africa has conducted red list assessments for 12 taxonomic groups. These

assessments are aligned to International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List

guidelines for regional assessment of species. Findings give a clear indication of just how

threatened South Africa’s biodiversity is.

Giant redfin endangered fish in SA - Google

Thirty five of our freshwater fish species are either endangered or critically endangered.

This amounts to little under a third of fish species in South Africa’s fresh waters. To

reverse this, Ms Raimondo said, South Africa must significantly scale up its investment. In

the last five years R18.6 million has been invested in conserving freshwater fish species.

It’s estimated that this investment must grow ninefold to effectively take each endangered

or critically endangered species off of those lists.

Similarly, she said, eleven amphibian species are in desperate need of protection. To give

them that protection, investment assigned to conservation measures will need to be scaled

up fourfold from R22.3 million invested since 2019 to an investment of R92.5 million over

the next five years.

Bush Squeaker - google image ownership unknown

It’s going to take about R965 million to save the 16 South African bird species in urgent

need of recovery intervention; and more than R2 billion to ensure survival of the black

rhino, wild dog and riverine rabbit.

More than 100 plant species are in urgent need of recovery action. Work is underway right

now to save only 14 percent of those (15 different plant species).

The estimated average cost to save plant species is significantly more accessible than

saving animal species: estimated at around zaR2.8 million per plant species over a five

year period as opposed to an average of zaR13.2 per mammal species and zaR44.2 per

bird species.

Kirsty du toit

South Africa, Ms Raimondo said, has people – professionals and citizen scientists alike –

who work passionately to save species. Ours was the first country to quantify and

catalogue which of its species required recovery intervention. South Africa was also the

first country to systematically identify species that qualify for recovery in each of the

taxonomic groups.

There remains more to do. Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is possible.

More than this, it’s extremely likely. However, success demands significant investment of

time, money and an extensive committed, invested partnership network that includes

conservationists, NGOs, public sector policy makers, the private sector and, critically,

communities and persons who derive a living from natural resources.

IUCN Red list

Reverse the Red is a global movement for strategic cooperation and action to ensure the

survival of wild species and ecosystems and reverse the negative trend of biodiversity

loss. The movement provides the tools and expertise to empower governments, partners,

and local communities to set and reach biodiversity conservation targets and celebrates

and amplifies successful achievements for species.

The South African satellite conference of Reverse the Red took place remotely and was

attended by delegates from SANBI, the National Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the

Environment, the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa, SA National Parks, the

Endangered Wildlife Trust, Birdlife South Africa, the Botanical Society of South Africa, and

the Two Oceans Aquarium Foundation.

Philanthropists interested in helping save species on the brink of extinction may contact

the Endangered Wildlife Trust (for animals): Lauren Waller or the

Botanical Society (for plants): Martina Treurnicht


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