Friday, 14 September 2012

Priceless or Worthless?


What is a species worth?
September 2012: Tarzan’s chameleon, the spoon-billed sandpiper and the pygmy three-toed sloth have all topped a new list of the species closest to extinction released by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

For the first time, 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.

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?


Difficult conservation
Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL's Director of Conservation said: “The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species 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.”

Priceless or Worthless
The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea this month (Tues 11th Sept), 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.”

Decline often caused by humans
The decline of these species has mainly been caused by humans, but in almost all cases scientists believe their extinction can still be avoided if conservation efforts are specifically focused. Conservation actions can deliver results with many species such as Przewalski's Horse (see Reintroducing an extinct species to the wild - www.peter-lynch.co.uk/wildlife-conservation-volunteering.html) and Humpback Whale 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.

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