Scientists warned in a new study that the world may be going through a “sixth mass extinction” and that one in five mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians may disappear.
The disturbing study revealed that more species of animals are vanishing today than at any time since the dinosaurs disappeared.
The report blames humans for most of the problem and urges the world to take immediate conservation steps to limit the damage.
Scientists discussed their research, which they took from information derived by the Red List, at the United Nations biodiversity summit in Nagoya, Japan this week.
The Red List Study
A group of 174 scientists from 38 countries analyzed more than 25,000 species of animals recorded on the” Red List” – a worldwide database of threatened animals. The Red List was created by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
They found that approximately 25 percent of all mammals, 13 percent of birds, 22 percent of reptiles and 41 percent of amphibians are at risk for extinction. Many species of fish such as sharks and rays are also threatened.
Some of the endangered mammals include polar bears, tigers, the Iberian lynx and the Tasmanian devil.
And creatures like the marine turtle and panda have such a unique ancestry that no other animal will be able to “fill the ecological niches or functions they inhabit.”
The common denominator for all of the threatened animals is that they have a backbone or skeleton made of cartilage.
One of the leading ecologists, Professor Edward O. Wilson, from Harvard University said, “The backbone of biodiversity is being eroded. This is just a small window on the global losses taking place.”
The Human Factor
The study clearly points to humans as being the biggest risk to the animal world.
According to CNN.com the report says, “On average 50 species of mammal, bird and amphibian move closer to extinction each year.”
They attribute agricultural expansion, logging, over-hunting, poaching and introducing foreign animals to new countries as the leading causes of the devastation.
The animals in Southeast Asia had the most losses because of the growth of palm oil farms, the timber industry and rice crops.
The world is simply becoming too industrialized.
“We’ve transformed a third of the habitable land on earth for food production,” said Nicholas K. Dulvy, author and co-chair of the IUCN shark specialist group. “You can’t just remove that habitat without consequences for biodiversity.”
In some instances disease has impacted the existence of animals. Many amphibian species in parts of Central America, the tropical Andes of South America and Australia were hit hard by a fungus that killed large populations.
The Good News
The good news is that scientists believe the situation for animals on Earth would have been worse without action from conservationists. They are hopeful that stepped up efforts can still save many creatures.
The status of 64 species has improved with the help of conservationists. Some of these animals include the California condor, the black-footed ferret and a horse native to Mongolia.
Environmental and animal welfare groups attending the conference in Japan are urging the world’s leaders to set a goal to protect 25 percent of all the land on earth and 15 percent of the sea by 2020.
Call To Action
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