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The threatened species categories now used in Red Data Books and Red Lists have been in place, with some modification, for almost 30 years. Since their introduction these categories have become widely recognised and they are now used in a whole range of publications and listings, produced by the IUCN and numerous governmental and non-governmental organisations. Red Data Books provide an easily and widely understood method for highlighting those species under higher extinction risk, in order to focus attention on conservation measures designed to protect them.
In 1984 the Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the IUCN held a symposium (Fitter & Fitter, 1987) that examined the issue of revising the categories and at which a number of options were considered for a revised system. No single proposal resulted. The current phase of development began in 1989 with a request from the SSC Steering Committee to develop a new approach that would provide the conservation community with useful information for action planning. After numerous versions of draft proposals (Mace & Lande, 1991; Mace et al., 1992; IUCN, 1993; Mace & Stuart, 1994), a final document, incorporating changes as a result of comments from IUCN members, was adopted by the IUCN Council in December 1994. The 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species was the first publication to utilise these new categories of threat.
This comprehensive volume covers all mammals that occur naturally on the African mainland south of the Cunene and Zambezi rivers, and also in the subregion's coastal waters. Extensively revised and updated for the new edition, it now includes the latest data from from mammal research in southern Africa along with the radical taxonomic changes across all levels of mammalian classification. Containing contributions from specialists on each mammalian order, each species description has been reviewed by a range of independent and internationally recognised authorities. Along with the latest taxonomic information, the distribution maps and illustrations have been updated and redrawn, several new colour plates have been added, and the whole design has been enhanced to aid access to key information. This is the most comprehensive and up-to-date survey of southern-African mammals and forms an essential reference for zoologists, evolutionary biologists and anyone wanting an overview of the region's wildlife.