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These 15 Species Just Won't Make it Unless We Act Now

Mar 22, 2015 11:27 PM EDT
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Researchers have recently released a paper that details 15 of the most critically endangered species on Earth - organisms that not only are facing what looks to be inevitable extinctions, but are barely receiving any aid to stop it. Now conservationists are calling for the money and expertise that would be needed to help these creatures - ranging from seabirds to tropical gophers - survive.

A study recently published in the journal Current Biology details how a whopping 841 endangered species can still be saved from extinction if countries and organizations commit an estimated net value of $1.3 billion dollars annually towards their safety. However, for 15 of the species highlighted in the report, their chance of conservation success is dropping by the minute.

"Conservation opportunity evaluations like ours show the urgency of implementing management actions before it is too late," Dalia A. Conde, the lead author of the study and Assistant Professor at the Max-Planck Odense Center at the University of Southern Denmark, explained in a recent statement. "However, it is imperative to rationally determine actions for species that we found to have the lowest chances of successful habitat and zoo conservation actions."

So just what are these 15 species in trouble? Nearly half the list includes amphibians, and that's something that shouldn't be too surprising given that this class of creatures is battling a war on two fronts. (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : Ivan Sazima) The Brazilian frog Physalaemus soaresi is one of the most critically endangered species in the world, as the great majority of its natural habitat has been converted into eucalyptus plantations.

As things stand, a deadly fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) continues to spread and wipe out frog species from the face of the Earth in places like Brazil and Spain. A variant of it (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) has even started to affect salamanders around the globe.

Meanwhile, the habitats that these creatures rely on are shrinking and changing in the wake of climate change and human influence. Salamanders are even shrinking, as they increasingly struggle to live in suddenly dry and warming climes.

Six of the 15 species listed also happen to be birds. This, too, is partially a consequence of climate change, where churning air currents and shrinking habitats are leaving migratory species with smaller rest stops and fewer food supplies. Even species who do not travel far are left to compete with invaders, pollution, and, most commonly, deforestation. The Tahiti monarch (Pomarea nigra), for instance, is estimated to total less than 50 in the wild, as livestock pastures are expanding at the cost of forest habitat. (Scroll to read on...)

(Photo : Vincent Legendre) The Amsterdam albatross - one of the most critically endangered birds in the world - boasts a population that hovers somewhere around 130 birds with only 25 known breeding pairs.

Most interestingly, three mammal species are threatened, consisting of the Mount Lefo brush-furred mouse (Lophuromys eisentrauti) in Cameroon, the Chiapan climbing rat (Tylomys bullaris) in Mexico, and the tropical pocket gopher (Geomys tropicalis) along the Mexican and Central American coast.

Shrinking habitats are threatening all three, but the reasons vary from urbanization, to human conflict, to costly habitat protection. Some can't even be reintroduced into the wild through a captive breeding system, as the expertise to raise them is too rare or costly in undeveloped worlds.

That's why an international effort world be worth it, according to the study. The researchers determined that the total cost to conserve the 841 animal species in their natural habitats was calculated to be more than $1 billion (USD) per year. The estimated annual cost for complementary management in zoos was $160 million.

"Although the cost seems high, safeguarding these species is essential if we want to reduce the extinction rate by 2020," added Hugh Possingham from The University of Queensland. "When compared to global government spending on other sectors - e.g., US defense spending, which is more than 500 times greater -, an investment in protecting high biodiversity value sites is minor."

And most encouragingly of all, the researchers found that if these species get the funding they need, 39 percent of them could potentially be pulled out of their endangered status, given their high number of conservation opportunities.

That's not the case for the most threatened 15, but even for those the researchers argue that taking "an integrated approach" could save them.

Markus Gusset of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums added that action ranging "from habitat protection to the establishment of insurance populations in zoos will be needed if we want to increase the chances of species' survival."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

- follow Brian on Twitter @BS_ButNoBS

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