The news from a new global conservation report is not good news for the environment, with a dire warning that one in five of the existing plant and animal species on our planet headed towards extinction.
The report, which was published in Science journal and which was prepared by 174 scientists, determined that on average 52 species of mammals, birds and amphibians are sliding closer to extinction with every year.
Despite efforts by environmental groups to help preserve various species, the shocking evidence from this study shows that the number of endangered vertebrates is still rising and that the root cause behind this is mankind.
A number of scientists believe that the world is currently going through a mass extinction, the sixth since life began, and that more wildlife is going to become extinct in the years to come than at any time since the dinosaurs disappeared 65 million years ago.
The report, which was released at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), shows that amphibians are still the most threatened category, with 41% of species currently at risk and on the Red List of over 25,000 species that are under severe threat. Only 13% of birds however are on the Red List.
The biggest losses coincide with those areas of the planet where forests are being cleared for agriculture, primarily in the rain forests of Southeast Asia and South America.
The good news from the scientists however is that conservation projects are having an impact, and that some species that were on the Red List, like the California condor, black footed ferret and Przewalskis’s horse, which have been bred in captivity and released back into the wild, are now off the critical list.
Bans in commercial whaling have also seen the numbers of humpback whales rising rapidly, and these are now also off the Red List.
Scientists are well aware however, that no matter how optimistic we are that conservation can help to preserve some species, the grim reality is that some species will still become extinct or at least their numbers will shrink.
One ongoing debate as to what the global target for 2020 should be, is whether to try and completely halt the loss of all species, or to attempt something which is less ambitious but more likely to be a goal that is attainable. Some scientists hold the view that preventing the loss of any species at all is just not possible.
A separate report, “Evolution Lost”, which was prepared by the Zoological Society of London also issued a warning that the population of many common animals are also on the decline.
According to the report, many mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species had seen populations shrinking by an average of 30% over the last 40 years.
The past 20 years has seen land mammal populations decrease by 25%, marine fish by 20%, and freshwater fish by 65%.
It’s not just individual species that are under threat either, and the report warns that whole families of species such as marine turtles and pandas are on the verge of extinction, with no similar species existing that can fill their ecological niches.
These are indeed scary times that we live in, with a culmination of the human population growth getting out of control, as well as levels of pollution, and on top of that global and regional climate changes making their effects known.
The Daily Mail