Monday, October 6, 2008

1 in 4 Mammals May Become Extinct - Our World and Our Own Survival is in Crisis

Almost 25% of all mammals are threatened with extinction. We must do something now! The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has just completed their first detailed study in over a decade, looking at the mammals of our planet. This study was conducted over a 5-year period, by over 1,700 scientists, 11,000 volunteer scientists, and over 1,000 government and non-governmental organizations from over 160 countries around the world.

Their dire prediction is that 20.8%, a little over 1 out of 5 of all the world's mammals are surrently at risk for extinction! The IUCN, which is based in Switzerland, has red-listed 44,838 as threatened species, out of which 16,928 are endangered, 8,912 species are at risk for extinction, and 3,246 are facing imminent extinction. Since there are some mammals for which there is little data, whose numbers have not been counted possibly due to extremely low numbers, the actual number is probably close to 25% or 1 in 4.

Since 1500, there have been approximately 76 species of mammals that have become extinct. The fact that the number of mammals facing extinction has increased exponentially is due directly to our management and use of the world's lands, oceans and animals, as well as our contribution to global warming and climate change. Some of the causes of this mass extinction are habitat loss, deforestation, hunting, poaching, the international pet trade, accidental death-by-net and vessel strike for matine animals, and climate change. I personally would add pollution/poisoning of the ecosystem as another cause of extinction. The larger primates are at the most risk because they require larger areas for their habitats than do smaller mammals. If you would like to know more about the IUCN study on mammal extinction, go to
or get it directly from IUCN at

An on-line article about endangered turtles on MSNBC reported that 40% of all species of mammals in China are endangered. They state that this is due to hunting and pollution. This problem is pervasive and certainly not limited to China. The question is, what are YOU going to do about this? We must ALL get together on this to save the mammals of our planet. If we lose 25% of all known species of mammals, this will have far-reaching effects that will quickly filter down to other species, and will ultimately, radically change our own lives, and possibly impact our own survival as a species. When you are talking about the extinction of the larger, top predatory species, you disrupt the trophic cascade. To understand the depth of impact this will have you should follow the studies of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Part of the positive impact of their return to that environment has included the literal change in the course of tributaries, caused the creation of new wetlands, and increased the diversity of species now found in Yellowstone. Combine the results of the IUCN study of mammals with what we already know about the enormous amount of ALL other species that are threatened, endangered and critically at risk for extinction. I believe our environment, as we know it, is at risk. Therefore, so is our own fragile survival as a species.

We have exploited, destroyed, killed competitors for land to extinction, polluted, and covered with concrete, a huge amount of our habitable land areas. We have polluted a large amount of the potable water of this world, which is less than 1% of all the water found on Earth. We have polluted the world's oceans and have overfished a large percentage of our marine food supply. I could go on and on. When you really look at what is happening, it is obvious that our decision-tree as humans should include everything that will save our environment and exclude that which threatens our environment in any way. Basically, we are down to the question of, what are we as a species willing to do and give up to survive? For instance, "Drill, Baby, Drill" is about as irresponsible and stupid a thing to do as I can imagine. Hmmm, profits or survival as a species?

A really interesting study was done by Jared Diamond that looked at the causes of the extinction of past civilizations, such as the Maya and Anasazi. He looked at the following five major factors that he believes contribute to the decline and/or collapse of a civilization: 1) environmental damage and population growth, 2) climate change, 3)hostile neighbors, 4) weakened trade partners, 5) and failure to solve social problems. If you are interested in Diamond's Case Study watch his lecture at UC Santa Barbara at
Here's a link to his graph embedded in a NY Times article about Diamond's research on the decline of civilizations

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