A little three-toed sloth native to a small island off Panama, a type of Madagascar chameleon named after the fictional “Tarzan,” and the so-called “Asian unicorn” are among the top 100 most endangered species in the world.
Conservation groups published the top 100 list of endangered species in the world, asking whether these animals, fungi, and plants are “priceless or worthless?”
“The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly toward 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,” professor Jonathan Baillie, the Zoological Society’s conservation director, said in a statement Tuesday.
“This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet,” Baillie continued.
“While the utilitarian value of nature is important, conservation goes beyond this,” he said. “Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”
The list of threatened species was selected by more than 8,000 scientists with the International Union for Conservation of Nature in conjunction with the Zoological Society of London.
The list hopes to raise awareness of the animals considered “worthless,” but stressed that these 100 species, including the saola, which lives in remote jungles in Southeast Asia—called “Asian unicorn” due to its extreme rarity—will totally disappear if there is no intervention. Only a few dozen saola exist in the wild.
The title of the report, “Priceless or Worthless,” is meant to challenge the status quo of how conservation is being currently implemented. Authors of the report feel that conservation efforts have mainly been focused on well-known species, including pandas and the Javan rhinoceros.
The conservation groups said, for example, that the brightly colored willow blister, a type of fungus only found in a small area in Wales, is seriously in decline and could easily be wiped out.
The charismatic pygmy three-toed sloth, only half the size of its cousin the brown-throated sloth, is found on Escudo Island off the coast of Panama, and is critically endangered.
Others include the Hainan gibbon, a primate found only on the Chinese island of Hainan. According to a recent count, only 22 individuals are believed to be left.
The report listed the species alphabetically, starting with the ploughshare tortoise (Astrochelys yniphora), located only in Madagascar. Between 440 and 770 individuals are still alive, with their primary threat being the illegal pet trade.
Similarly, a type of carnivorous pitcher plant native to the Philippines that feeds on insects is also critically threatened by poaching.
“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,” Baillie said.
However, other conservation groups said that it would be impossible to save every threatened species.
“Ideally, we would try and save every species on the planet because everything in nature is connected and so are the solutions to environmental problems,” Sybille Klenzendorf, the conservation director with the World Wildlife Fund, told NBC. “However, since saving every single species would be an enormous undertaking, we must focus our efforts on conserving nature as a whole.”
But when these endangered species go, they “can never be replaced,” the authors of the report said.
Download the report in PDF here.
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