One in five migratory species faces extinction, UN report warns

FEB 12, 2024 LISTEN

The world's migratory species are under threat across the planet with their global risk of extinction increasing, a landmark UN report released Monday has warned. 

Until now there has been no comprehensive data on the conservation status or population trends of the billions of animals that make yearly migratory journeys across the world's lands, seas and skies.

These species often rely on very specialised sites to feed and mate. Their journeys can cross international borders and even continents. 

Iconic species that make some of the most extraordinary journeys across the planet include the monarch butterfly, the humpback whale and the loggerhead turtle.

The first-ever State of the World's Migratory Species report – which focuses on the 1,189 species covered by the UN Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) – offers compelling evidence of the dangers they face.

It found that one in five species is threatened with extinction, and 44 percent are seeing their populations decline.

'Wake up call'

Humans are to blame for the threat to species by destroying or breaking up habitats, hunting, and polluting areas with plastics, chemicals, light and noise.

Climate change also threatens to interfere with migration routes and timings, by altering seasonal conditions.

"We are finding out the phenomenon of migration itself is under threat," CMS chief Amy Fraenkel told the French news agency AFP – adding the report should serve as a "wake up call about what's happening".

Migratory animals act as indicators of environmental change while also playing an integral role in maintaining our planet's complex ecosystems.

The report offers a global overview of the conservation status and population trends, combined with the latest information on the main threats and actions to save them. It found:


"Today's report sets out the evidence that unsustainable human activities are jeopardising the future of migratory species," said Inger Andersen, head of the United Nations Environment Programme.

Nearly all of the listed fish species including sharks and rays, face a high risk of extinction with their population having declined by 90 percent since the 1970s.

Over the past three decades, 70 species have become more endangered, including the steppe eagle, Egyptian vulture and the wild camel.

Of the 158 mammals listed under the convention, 40 percent are globally threatened.

The report, which is intended to feed into the Samarkand conference, includes a focus on species most at risk, highlighting the threats from fishing, farming and pollution.

They echo a major biodiversity agreement in 2022, when countries agreed to preserve 30 percent of the planet's land and sea by 2030.