The 100 most threatened species. Are they priceless or worthless?

11 September 2012 | News story
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Tarzan’s Chameleon, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Pygmy Three-toed Sloth have all topped a new list of the species closest to extinction released today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

For the first time ever, more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have come together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. But conservationists fear they’ll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.

"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 prioritised according to the services they provide for people,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation.“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?”

The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, was presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea today. The publication hopes to push the conservation of 'worthless' creatures up the agenda that is set by NGOs from around the globe.

“All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back,” says Ellen Butcher, ZSL, co-author of the report. “However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist.”

Their declines have mainly been caused by humans, but in almost all cases scientists believe their extinction can still be avoided if conservation efforts are specifically focused. Conservation actions deliver results with many species such as Przewalski's Horse (Equus ferus) and Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) have being saved from extinction.

The 100 species, from 48 different countries are first in line to disappear completely if nothing is done to protect them. The pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) is one of the animals facing a bleak future. Escudo Island, 17km off the coast of Panama, is the only place in the world where these tiny sloths are found. At half the size of their mainland cousins, and weighing roughly the same as a newborn baby, pygmy sloths are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world and remain Critically Endangered.

Similarly, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is one of the most threatened mammals in Southeast Asia. Known as the Asian unicorn because of its rarity, the population of these antelope may be down to few tens of individuals today. In the UK, a small area in Wales is the only place in the world where the brightly coloured willow blister (Cryptomyces maximus) is found. Populations of the spore-shooting fungi are currently in decline, and a single catastrophic event could cause their total destruction.

“If we believe these species are priceless it is time for the conservation community, government and industry to step up to the plate and show future generations that we value all life,’’ adds Professor Baillie

Whilst monetising nature remains a worthwhile necessity for conservationists, the wider value of species on the brink of extinction should not be disregarded, the report states.

“All species have a value to nature and thus in turn to humans,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Although the value of some species may not appear obvious at first, all species in fact contribute in their way to the healthy functioning of the planet.”

SOS – Save Our Species, is a global partnership initiated by leading conservation organizations aimed at mobilizing new sources of funding for threatened species, their habitats and the people depending on them. By joining SOS, governments, foundations, companies, wealthy individuals can join forces and ensure that species featured in this book prosper again.



9 Comentarios
1 kcstu
dead ends
critically endangered species have such a shallow gene pool that unfortunately there is not much hope. if we raise interest on species that are threatened maybe there is till a chance on maintaining a healthy population
October 18, 2012 - 22:27
2 olivier BEHRA Man & Nature
why on line
Why would we have such an important document only to be read online? Where these species are it is difficult to be online or to stay on line. If we want to tackel the problems lets start by basic understanding or who we have to deal with.
October 6, 2012 - 15:42
3 Steve Woodhall Lepidopterists' Society of Africa
Why are species categorised as Near Threatened included when Critically Endangered ones are ignored?
The list includes two butterfly taxa. One, Parides burchellianus, is IUCN categorised as Near Threatened. We have 14 Critically Endangered species here in South Africa alone, most of which inhabit tinier habitats than these quoted here. Why are none of these mentioned? What criteria were used to put taxa on the list? If an NT taxon is threatened enough to be be there, surely it should have a higher category than NT? And why are so many taxa identified by common name alone? Where is the science?
September 14, 2012 - 23:14
4 Camellia Williams IUCN
A starting point for discussion
The 100 species featured in this book are a sample of all of those that need conservation attention. Designed to spark debate the book raises the question of how we should choose which species receive conservation attention, or if indeed we have the right to choose which species to save. Certainly, it seems to have got people talking. Jonathan Baillie, ZSL, emphasizes that the conservation of a species should not be based on its value alone, but should also consider the ethics of whether or not we as humans have the right to decide which species survive and which ones we allow to go extinct.
September 14, 2012 - 03:59
5 Apeetha Arunagiri Arunachala Kattu Siva Plantation
"worthless species"
Please define a "worthless" species.

It is very disturbing to see this worthless concept used by ICUN especially in the context of a World Conservation Conference.
September 14, 2012 - 02:57
6 Sara E Anderson
That's evolution
Gregory, that's how evolution works. Most species are dead ends. I am a fan of some of those dead-ends, but nature doesn't exist to please me with its cuteness and cleverness.

Still, conservation is an important pursuit that needs attention and innovation.
September 13, 2012 - 18:22
7 Gregory Mathers wildlife rescue
So whats new.
According to the Queensland Museum book of dinosaurs we have already lost 99% of species on this planet over time. We have to be more responsible as a species to try and save what we have left.

September 12, 2012 - 22:11
8 Luciano Lima Universidade de São Paulo
Misleading information
Sorry, but despite the alleged 8000 scientists involved in this "study" there is no scientific bases for it. Doing such a list and not including almost gone species like Alagoas Foliage-gleaner, Stresemann's Bristlefront, Spix's Macaw, Alagoas Curassow, and including species with much higher populations is completely nonsense. That's politics, neither science nor conservation. Although I agree that conservation and politics walk together, this list is too much, doesn't reflects the reality
September 11, 2012 - 21:39
9 Sarah Rees MyEnvironment Inc.
SOS wake up
If we haven't already become the 'boiled frog' then we need to wake up now. Here are 100 species we know about and how many more are there that we are not aware of...?

We need to actively participate in ecosystem restoration and conservation. The habitat is where we can effect the most change.
September 11, 2012 - 13:56
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