100 most threatened species: Are they priceless or worthless?

Sep 10, 2012
Diceros sumatrensis. Copyright: Save the Rhino International

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.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL's Director of Conservation explains: "The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a 'what can nature do for us' approach, where and wild habitats are valued and prioritised 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.

While the utilitarian value of nature is important conservation goes beyond this. 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?, will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in this week, and hopes to push the conservation of 'worthless' creatures up the agenda that is set by NGOs from around the globe.

Co-author of the report, ZSL's Ellen Butcher says: "All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back. 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 are specifically focused. Conservation actions deliver results with many species such as Przewalski's Horse (Equus ferus) and (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 this undated photo released by the Zoological Society of London, the Tarzan's chameleon is shown. International conservation groups have unveiled a list of the earth's most threatened 100 animals, plants and fungi and say urgent action is needed to protect them. The groups identified the species Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in a report presented to a global conservation forum on the southern South Korean island of Jeju. The species live in 48 countries and include the Tarzan's chameleon, the spoon-billed sandpiper and the pygmy three-toed sloth. (Zoological Society of London, Frank Gaw)

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 are currently in decline, and a single catastrophic event could cause their total destruction.

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

Whilst monetising nature remains a worthwhile necessity for , the wider value of species on the brink of 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."

Explore further: Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

More information: ZSL and IUCN will be presenting 'Priceless or Worthless?' at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea on 11th September 2012.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Invertebrates on the brink

Aug 31, 2012

One fifth of the world's invertebrates may be heading for extinction according to 'Spineless', a report published today (Friday 31st) by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), in conjunction with IUCN and ...

Extinction alert issued for 800 species

Dec 13, 2005

Conservation and environmental groups have compiled a list of nearly 800 species they say face imminent extinction. Most of the threatened species are found mainly in tropical areas, the BBC reported Tuesday.

$3.3m aid for threatened species

Feb 09, 2012

Gorillas, cockatoos and frogs are among a list of threatened species to benefit from a $3.3 million (2.4 million euro) aid award, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said Thursday.

Two rhino species bite the dust: Red List

Nov 10, 2011

Several species of rhino have been poached into extinction or to the point of no return, according to an update of the Red List of Threatened Species, the gold standard for animal and plant conservation.

Recommended for you

Speckled beetle key to saving crops in Ethiopia

Aug 22, 2014

(Phys.org) —An invasive weed poses a serious and frightening threat to farming families in Ethiopia, but scientists from a Virginia Tech-led program have unleashed a new weapon in the fight against hunger: ...

New tool to assess noise impact on marine mammals

Aug 22, 2014

A new desktop tool which will allow offshore renewable energy developers to assess the likely impacts of their projects on marine mammal populations has been developed by scientists at the University of St ...

Of bees, mites, and viruses

Aug 21, 2014

Honeybee colonies are dying at alarming rates worldwide. A variety of factors have been proposed to explain their decline, but the exact cause—and how bees can be saved—remains unclear. An article published on August ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

xen_uno
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 10, 2012
Priceless w/o a doubt
Sinister1811
1.7 / 5 (7) Sep 11, 2012
Priceless w/o a doubt


Agreed. We should be trying to protect biodiversity as much as we can. Regardless of whether it "benefits" us or not.
Bob_Kob
1.8 / 5 (10) Sep 11, 2012
Animals and plants go extinct all the time. Its only the audacity of the human being to think it can dictate what should survive, when clearly nature has its other opinion.
Peteri
3.8 / 5 (6) Sep 11, 2012
@bob_kob

The vast majority of species extinctions in recent history are solely due to the activity of humans as they spread unchecked across the planet - we are the ultimate invasive species!

As such, we have a moral responsibility to prevent this from happening now and in the future. Failure to do so will result in a bland world of impoverished species diversity. Taken to its ultimate conclusion, the only animal and plant species left will be those few deemed to be of some benefit to humans.

It is a crime that species, which have survived on this planet for millions or even hundreds of millions of years, should be wiped out in the blink of an eye due to the self-centred and thoughtless actions of the human race.

The failure of people, such as yourself, to recognise that the ongoing rapid rate of species extinction is a tragedy of major proportions represents a complete failure of intellect.
Bog_Mire
2.3 / 5 (7) Sep 11, 2012
pre-Homo Sapiens natural events such as climate change, tectonic movements/upheavals, asteroid collisions volcanoes must be the biggest facilitator of species extinction over the (pre) history of Earth. It is worth bearing in mind before becoming too sentimental - obviously we have a role to play in preventing what we can as well