According to many scientists, we are likely in the beginning stages of a global mass extinction. The mass extinction can be considered due to a number of problems, including global warming, habitat destruction, human encroachment, pollution and even disease in the case of many amphibians. Thousands of species are at risk of extinction and a recent report addresses whether or not to rescue many species from the brink.
In a report titled “Priceless or Worthless? The world’s most threatened species,” the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Zoological Society of London combined to list 100 species at the greatest risk for extinction. The groups listed the species in order of scientific name, not putting priority on species or population numbers, and included plants and fungi into the mix as well.
The list of species at the greatest current risk of extinction is varied and included species from forty-eight different countries. The authors of the report indicated that there are thousands of other species that could be and are included on threatened lists but these are the most terminal. Included in their list were orchids, fungi and wild yams. Amphibians, including many frogs, primates and birds were all represented in the listing.
Species of note include the Wooly Spider Monkey from Brazil, which has less than 1,000 individuals left. The Pygmy three-toed sloth from Panama has less than 500 individuals left. The Seychelles sheath-tailed bat currently is only existing with less than 100 mature members of its population. The Red River giant softshell turtle, from China, has only four individuals surviving. The Javan rhino is the most threatened species of rhino with only less than 100 individuals remaining in Indonesia. And the world’s smallest and likely least-known porpoise, the vaquita, is found off of California and Mexico and has less than 200 individuals left.
The experts compiling the report asked the question “Priceless of Worthless?” to begin the conversation regarding whether or not an attempt should be made to save these or other species that may not have a direct economic impact on humans. However, many experts, including some working on the report, have indicated that species are pivotal to their own given ecosystem and are therefore important and worthy of saving.
In a statement released with the report, the conservation director at the Zoological Society of London, Jonathan Bailie, stated: “The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritized according to the services they provide for people. This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”