Many Mammals in Rapid Decline World Wide

Many Mammals in Rapid Decline World Wide
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“…will likely deteriorate further unless
appropriate conservation actions are put in
place.”

“… the populations of 52 percent of all mammal species are declining.”

” … more mammal species are rapidly declining than we had suspected.”
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Scientific American
News –  October 6, 2008

One Quarter of World’s Mammals Face Extinction
By David Biello

The baiji dolphin is functionally extinct,
orangutans are disappearing and even some species
of bats-the most numerous of mammals-are dying
out. A new survey of the world’s 5,487 mammal
species-from rodents to humans-reveals that one
in four are facing imminent extinction.

“Mammal species that are just declining, not
necessarily near extinction, that’s 50 percent,”
says conservation biologist Jan Schipper of the
International Union for Conservation of Nature
(IUCN), which keeps the Red List of Threatened
Species. “And 836 species-especially rodents and
bats-we determined they are threatened but we
don’t know how threatened, because we don’t know
enough about them.”

Schipper and more than 1,700 scientific
colleagues spent the past five years surveying
the state of the world’s mammals. The results,
published in Science to coincide with IUCN’s
conference on biodiversity this week, reveal that
1,139 mammals around the globe are threatened
with extinction and the populations of 52 percent
of all mammal species are declining.

South and Southeast Asia are home to the most
threatened mammals, from monkeys to rare rats.
And many mammals in the species-rich tropical
Andes Mountains of South America, Africa’s
Cameroonian highlands and Albertine Rift as well
as the northern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans are
also in trouble. Deforestation, along with
hunting or gathering food are the prime causes of
the rapid declines in land mammals, such as
elephants in Asia; most endangered marine
mammals, like the vaquita in Mexico’s Gulf of
California, are killed by fishing nets, ship
strikes or pollution.

“Overall conservation status of mammals will
likely deteriorate further unless appropriate
conservation actions are put in place,” the
researchers warn in the report.

But the news isn’t all grim: Some mammals, such
as the black-footed ferret of western North
America and the Hainan black-crested gibbon
(found only on China’s Hainan Island), have been
able to rebound as the result of conservation
efforts. “These are the kinds of success stories
that we need to clasp onto and find out what
worked,” Schipper says. “Usually, it takes a lot
of money.”

But he cautions that any conservation success is
likely temporary unless the root problems of, for
example, deforestation are addressed. In the case
of the Hainan gibbon, for instance, “there’s not
enough room for that species to go back to having
a thousand individuals unless we stop
deforestation and hunting,” Schipper says.

There’s also the clash between saving animals and
curing other environmental ills such as global
warming. Vast tracts of tropical rainforest have
been replaced by palm oil plantations for food
and biofuels, satellite imagery reveals.

But addressing climate change could also help
lessen this extinction crisis as well; the loss
of sea ice as a result of a warming world
threatens to make life impossible for those
mammals such as the polar bear and harp seal that
rely on it to survive.

The “general trend is that many more mammal
species are rapidly declining than we had
suspected,” Schipper says. “Fifty percent of
species are declining and 5 percent of species
are in an upward recovery-that’s just not enough.”

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