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July 1998

List of Japan's Endangered Species Continues to Grow

An updated list of endangered animals compiled by Japan's Environment Agency shows that the number of mammals and birds threatened with extinction more than doubled to 137 from an earlier tally of 68.

The new "Red List" of endangered species was drawn up in line with changes in categories of endangerment adopted by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) in 1994. The 137 species consist of 47 mammals--or 23 percent of all mammals in Japan--and 90 birds--13 percent of known bird species. There are 33 more mammals on the new list and 36 more birds.

One new addition is the Ogasawara large bat, a kind of flying fox found mostly on Hahajima Island in the western Pacific. The koajisashi, or Asiatic little tern, meanwhile, was moved up to the critically endangered category. The migratory bird comes to Japan's seashores and mouths of rivers around April to breed and flies south to Australia and Southeast Asia in September. Much of their migratory route is still unknown.

Environmental experts say that the continued deterioration of animals' natural habitat is the biggest factor behind the increase in the number of species facing extinction.

Photo: The washi-mimizuku, or eagle owl, is one of 69 species that were added to the endangered species list. (Kyodo)