1/5 of Animals Facing Extinction: Mass Extinction is Here

A massive report published last week by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in the international journal Science shows us exactly how bad we are doing as stewards of the world.

The report, the culmination of 5 decades of work by 174 scientists, examined approximately 25,000 species in nearly 40 countries. The overall finding is that about one-fifth of vertebrates are facing extinction.

We know it, we hear it, but every time I hear it again it is hard to comprehend. We are wiping out the inhabitants of this small planet.

And when it comes from such comprehensive, in-depth work like this, we know there is not much room for error. These scientists have identified that a train full of many of the world’s species is driving off a cliff and even if a few colors on the side of that train have been described wrongly, the overall situation is the same. Of course, the train is not being driven by giraffes, but by humans.

The IUCN reports that “on average, 50 species of mammal, bird and amphibian move closer to extinction each year due to the impacts of agricultural expansion, logging, over-exploitation and invasive alien species.”

“The ‘backbone’ of biodiversity is being eroded,” says American ecologist, writer, and professor, Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University. “One small step up the Red List is one giant leap forward towards extinction. This is just a small window on the global losses currently taking place.”

On the positive side, the report did also find that current conservation efforts have made a big difference and we would be in a much worse situation if it weren’t for the efforts of nations and the international community trying to preserve biodiversity.

“History has shown us that conservation can achieve the impossible, as anyone who knows the story of the White Rhinoceros in southern Africa is aware,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair of IUCN’s Species Survival Commission and an author on the study. “But this is the first time we can demonstrate the aggregated positive impact of these successes on the state of the environment.”

But conservation, in the traditional sense of this word, even if it is really ramped up, is not going to save us alone. As Jess Leber of Change.org writes:

We need to address the destructive attitude at the root of the extinction crisis. In Southeast Asia, the most threatened world region, that starts with reforming destructive palm oil farming practices, which are currently responsible for the worst of the deforestation.

Read more about the report just out by the IUCN on its website.

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Photo Credits: Golden Lion Tamarin by digitalART2 via flickr (CC license); Douc Langur by ucumari via flickr (CC license)

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