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Lemurs, North Atlantic right whales and European hamsters are critically endangered

Over half of the primate species in Africa are also at a high risk of extinction, according to the new Red List of Threatened Species.

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The North Atlantic right whale is endangered because of collisions with shipping vessels and getting caught by fishing nets.
Anderson Cabot Center/IUCN

The North Atlantic right whale, 33 species of lemurs, and even the European hamster are all considered to be critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which released its latest Red List of Threatened Species on Thursday. The new list includes more than 32,000 species that're currently threatened with extinction. 

According to the new list, over 250 mature North Atlantic right whales were estimated to be alive at the end of 2018, with the total population numbers declining by 15% since 2011. This decline is blamed on deaths via entanglement in fishing gear or being hit by ships. The decline is also attributed to the whales' lower reproduction rates compared with previous years. 

"The dramatic declines of species such as the North Atlantic right whale highlight the gravity of the extinction crisis," Jane Smart, global director of the IUCN Biodiversity Conservation Group, said in a statement Thursday. "Saving the fast-growing number of threatened species from extinction requires transformational change, supported by action to implement national and international agreements. The world needs to act fast to halt species' population declines and prevent human-driven extinctions."

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The Verreaux's Sifaka lemur found in Madagascar is under threat of extinction.

Nick Garbutt/IUNC

Lemurs including Verreaux's Sifaka and Madame Berthe's mouse lemur (considered the smallest primate in the world) are also under threat of dying out. The new list shows that a total of 33 lemur species are now critically endangered, with "103 of the 107 surviving species threatened with extinction" because of deforestation and hunting in Madagascar. 

"IUCN's Red List update demonstrates the importance of protecting the diversity of life across the planet, especially groups like lemurs, which are extremely limited geographically, making these species less resilient to habitat destruction," Sean T. O'Brien, president and CEO of NatureServe, said in a statement. "We need to protect our planet's unique biodiversity and must seek out opportunities to utilize data, science and technology to prevent the mass extinction event underway globally."

In Africa, an estimated 53% of primate species (54 of 103) are also under threat of extinction. This includes all 17 species of red colobus, which now makes it Africa's most-threatened genus of monkeys.

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Even the European common hamster could end up extinct as soon as 30 years from now.

Mathilde Tissier/IUNC

In Europe and Russia, the European (or common) hamster "is expected to go extinct within the next 30 years" unless its situation changes, according to the IUCN. The European hamster (Cricetus cricetus) has suffered severe population declines due to disrupted reproduction rates. Growth of monoculture plantations, the rise in industrial developments, and global warming are being investigated by scientists as possible causes.

Animals aren't the only ones in trouble. The world's most expensive fungus, caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), is considered vulnerable due to being overharvested to meet the growing demands for use in traditional Chinese medicine to treat many lung and kidney diseases. The pricey fungus can often sell for up to $50,000 a pound.

Sadly, the Bonin pipistrelle bat, splendid poison frog, Jalpa false brook salamander, and spined dwarf mantis are all species now declared extinct on the IUCN's latest list.