Ahead of the upcoming United Nations Biodiversity Summit to be held in Egypt, 17-29 November, a major assessment by the international Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) – the global conservation partnership that works to identify, map and safeguard sites holding the only known locations of highly threatened species – finds that nearly half of these irreplaceable sites are currently unprotected, but that with concerted action, hundreds of extinctions can be prevented.


This new analysis which is the culmination of a three-year effort led by BirdLife International, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and American Bird Conservancy (ABC) falls under a wider project, led by BirdLife and supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Environment Programme.


The analysis mapped the ranges of 1,483 highly threatened species known only to occur in a single site. To qualify for AZE status, a site must be the last known location of an Endangered or Critically Endangered species – the two highest extinction threat categories on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.


Alongside its efforts in Chile, the Alliance for Zero Extinction project team is also working in Brazil and Madagascar. Across all three countries, the project aims to improve the management of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, as well as working with key financial institutions to integrate conservation of threatened species into their environmental safeguard policies


“We now recognise 853 AZE sites – far more of these last refuges for species than previously known. In order to save any species, the number one priority is to protect their habitats, but 43 per cent of these sites lack any formal protection whatsoever” said Dr Ian Burfield, Global Science Coordinator at BirdLife International and lead coordinator of the new AZE site assessment.


“Besides the conservation benefits – preventing the extinction of endangered species – the recognition of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites as ‘key biodiversity areas’ brings a wide range of benefits to local communities,” said UN Environment biodiversity expert Ersin Esen “From protecting water sources, to preserving local biodiversity, mitigating climate change effects and providing cultural and other ecosystem services, these sites have the potential not just to save species, but to improve lives.”