The Story of Endangered Species

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05 February 2015 | by Craig Kasnoff

The IUCN Red List is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species. 

The IUCN Red List is compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which  is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO Members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries.

In 2014, the IUCN updated the Red List.

The IUCN Red List now includes 73,686 assessed species, of which -according to the IUCN- over 22,000 (30%) are threatened with extinction. The list includes both plant and animals species.

For example, the 2014 Red List reports that of the 73,686 assessed species:

* 213 mammal species are classified as “critically endangered”
* 477 mammals species are classified “endangered”
* 509 mammal species classified as “vulnerable”

For birds, the 2014 Red List numbers are just as bad:

* 213 bird species are classified as “critically endangered”
* 419 bird species are classified as “endangered”
* 741 bird species are classified as “vulnerable”

And for fish, it is even worse:

* 443 fish species are classified as “critically endangered”
* 587 fish species are classified as “endangered”
* 1,192 fish species are classified as “vulnerable”

In addition to mammal, bird and fish species, the Red List also reports on the status of reptiles; amphibians; insects; molluscs and plants. And for all of these species, the outlook is not bright.

The Red List also reports on the status of species in all of the countries throughout the world.

For example, the number of threatened species (plants and animals) in:

* The United States is 1,287
* South Africa is 528
* Switzerland is 62
* China is 995
* Russia is 217
* The Vatican is 1

(The one species in The Vatican is described as a mammal. Further research is needed to confirm exactly which animal species this is, and if it’s listing status is critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable).

And though it is not specifically pointed out in the IUCN Red List, It is interesting to note the correlation between a country’s population and number of threatened species in that country.

* The U.S. population is 316 million; so the ratio is 1 threatened species per 250,000 people
* China’s population is 1.357 billion; so the ratio is 1 threatened species per 1,363,819 people
* Russia’s population is 143 million; so the ratio is 1 threatened species per 658,986 people

And the Vatican? Well the population is 800 so….so more research is needed.

Reading the IUCN Red List sparks the imagination to many questions. For example:

* Is there a link between a country’s “population” and species in danger of extinction?
* Is there a link between a country’s “economy” and species in danger of extinction?
* Is there a link between a country’s “cultural” values and species in danger of extinction?

These are all fascinating – and important- questions.

There are many reasons a species starts its journey on a path towards extinction. With “natural” causes aside, these include poaching; illegal wildlife trade; habitat encroachment; pollution; introduced species; war or conflict; and climate change just to name a few.

And though it is important to know “why” a species is being forced towards extinction, for the over 2,000 “critically endangered” species, it is perhaps even more important to know other things like:

* What needs to be done to save the species from extinction?
* What can be done to save the species from extinction?
* And what is (or isn’t) being done to save the species from extinction?

These are the key questions needing to be asked – and answered. However, these are not easy questions to ask; or answer.

And these are especially not easy questions to answer in a world where war; terrorism; economic uncertainties and issues like unemployment are so prevalent throughout the world and captivating the world’s media attention and financial resources.

However, while the public’s -and the media’s- attention are focused on all of these other troubling issues, many endangered species continue their march towards extinction. And they are doing so at an alarmingly ever increasing rate.

How many species will be forced into extinction? No one knows. There is simply no answer to that question.

The story of endangered species is an unfolding story. And it is a story that is being written each and every day.

Each day reveals a species moving towards extinction; or a species moving away from it. Each day reveals a person trying to save a species from extinction. Or, it reveals a person pushing it closer to the edge.

And each day reveals whether human societies have decided to find value in the other species we share this planet with, or if other species will simply continued to be viewed as “disposable.”

The story of endangered species will unfold over the next days, weeks, months and years. That is simply a fact.

It is also a fact that this story that will determine which species are allowed to continue to live their lives on Earth, and which species will be pushed from this planet -and the universe- for eternity.

But perhaps the most important fact of all is simply this: the story of “endangered” species is a story being written by the “human” species.

And it is a story being written one day at a time.


Endangered Species Journalist is Produced by Craig Kasnoff

to Promote the Plight of Endangered Species and the Efforts to Save Them.