The giraffe-like Okapi and the White-winged Flufftail, one of Africa’s rarest birds, are on the verge of extinction, conservation body the IUCN warned on Tuesday.
In an update to its “Red List” of threatened species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said the animals had been driven to ever closer to destruction.
The Okapi, a smaller cousin of the giraffe, is unique to the rainforests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where poaching, habitat loss, and the presence of rebels, elephant poachers and illegal miners are the principal threats to its survival.
It is now ranked as endangered, the third step from extinction on the IUCN’s nine-notch scale.
“The Okapi is revered in Congo as a national symbol -? it even features on the Congolese franc banknotes,” said Noelle Kumpel, head of the organisation’s Giraffe and Okapi Specialist Group.
“Sadly, DRC has been caught up in civil conflict and ravaged by poverty for nearly two decades, leading to widespread degradation of Okapi habitat and hunting for its meat and skin,” she said, adding that its survival hinges on supporting government efforts to stem violence and help the poor.
The White-winged Flufftail, meanwhile, has been listed as critically endangered, putting it on the edge of the extinction abyss.
The small, secretive bird is found in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
It has been hit by wetland drainage, conversion for agriculture, overgrazing by livestock and cutting of marsh vegetation.
But there was good news for threatened species, the IUCN said: two kinds of albatross, plus the Leatherback Turtle and the Island Fox are showing signs of recovery.
The Black-browed Albatross and Black-footed Albatross — both vulnerable to accidental capture by fishermen — are now at a lower risk of extinction due to populations increases.
The albatross is one of the most threatened of the planet’s bird families, but the Black-browed variety was shifted from endangered to near threatened — five steps from extinction.