Humpback whale on the road to recovery

Two large whale species -- the humpback whale and southern right whale -- are now less threatened with extinction than in previous years, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The environmental network has just updated their Red List of Threatened Species, which assesses the extinction risk of animal and plant species, to include recent information on cetaceans, a group comprising whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Randall Reeves, who led the IUCN assessment said that this is "mainly because they have been protected from commercial hunting", since a global moratorium on whale hunting was imposed in 1986. "This is a great conservation success and clearly shows what needs to be done to ensure these ocean giants survive."

However, most small coastal and freshwater cetaceans are moving closer to extinction. Nearly a quarter of the species assessed are considered threatened. The IUCN warned that the situation could be much worse, with more than half of the species in the study classed as "data deficient", meaning future research needs to be a priority.

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