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An urgent call to halt species loss in the ASEAN region

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature Species Survival Commission’s Asian Species Action Partnership (ASAP) have launched a new collaborative report, “Halting Species Loss in ASEAN: Baseline Information Analysis”. Co-authored by ASAP Director Nerissa Chao and ASAP Strategic Advisor Madhu Rao, the report addresses conservation issues facing Critically Endangered species in the region and gives key recommendations for the recovery of these highly threatened species.  

The ASEAN region is of global biodiversity importance. It is exceptionally species-rich and contains extremely high proportions of country-endemic species found nowhere else on earth. However, due to increasing threats, without urgent attention many Southeast Asian species could become extinct in the next few decades. Halting imminent species extinctions in the ASEAN region is therefore, an urgent global priority. Species and their habitats are under severe pressure from overexploitation fuelled by the illegal wildlife trade, and habitat loss driven by commercial agriculture, infrastructure and energy projects. Most species groups are more threatened in Southeast Asia than in other similarly large regions.    

Over the years, some of the critically endangered land and freshwater vertebrate species have been receiving significant conservation attention. However, there is a need to scale up efforts toward the protection of several species of amphibians, birds, turtles, primates and freshwater fish, throughout their range, even beyond the boundaries of legally established protected areas.”  Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, Executive Director, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity. 


The newly launched report provides recommendations for highly threatened species conservation and recovery in the ASEAN region. The recommendations are based on a comprehensive review of threats, area-based conservation measures, ongoing conservation efforts and the policy context. Key recommendations include catalysing conservation action through increasing financial resources, targeted investments for neglected species groups, and building capacity of individuals and organisations working to conserve threatened species. The report also calls for a more effective site-based conservation action through better governance, management and protection of protected sites, with an emphasis on the ASEAN Heritage Parks network, Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, Key Biodiversity Areas, as well as Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures and Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas. Other key recommendations address the two main threats to ASEAN species, commercial exploitation and habitat loss. These include effective responses and strengthening both national, regional and international legal frameworks to protect species and ensure population recovery. The integration of ex situ and in situ conservation through multi-stakeholder partnerships across the ASEAN region is also a key step in the process of averting ASAP species loss.    

This assessment compiles evidence to draw urgent attention to the problem and inform a collective response among the ASEAN Member States to take necessary action. Having an ASEAN Species Declaration (akin to the ASEAN Declaration on Heritage Parks 2003) would be a vital policy platform for ASEAN Member States to galvanize urgent action to avert species extinctions and secure the region’s exception biodiversity.   

Bold and urgent action is needed for biodiversity in the ASEAN region, especially as there are more species on the edge of extinction in this region than elsewhere. This report draws attention to critically important regional conservation issues and represents a first step towards developing a joint ASEAN response to safeguard the region’s unique biodiversity.”  Dr. Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN SSC Asian Species Action Partnership Governing Council  

With the mission of ending species extinctions in Southeast Asia, ASAP is a partnership platform with over 200 Partners from across the region working collectively to address these issues. Through ASAP’s small grants programmes, we have supported 24 conservation projects focusing on 30 ASAP species across the ASEAN region, with a particular focus on those species most neglected and in need of conservation action.  

The report recommends strengthening capacity of individuals and organisations in the region to amplify effective action for species recovery. Recognising that women still remain underrepresented in conservation despite their key role in contributing to conservation solutions, the ASAP Women in Conservation Leadership Programme was developed with the goal of supporting women to reach their full potential and establishing a regional network of women conservation leaders involved in preventing ASAP species extinctions. The programme provides targeted training to strengthen management and leadership capabilities, while working with each individual to help champion their work and support their efforts. Fourteen women leaders from 6 Southeast Asian countries joined the first cohort, providing inspiration for the next generation of women conservationists. 

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and substantially more resources are needed along with effective partnerships to address the urgent needs to halt species extinctions in the ASEAN region. In line with the theme of World Wildlife Day 2022 “Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration”, we affirm the need to take bold and necessary action. Together, we can save species in the ASEAN region! 

 Read the “Halting Species Loss in ASEAN: Baseline Information Analysis” report here. 

The ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) is an intergovernmental organization that facilitates cooperation and coordination among the ten ASEAN Member States (AMS) and with regional and international organizations on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of such natural treasures. Find out more about ACB 

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