Are threatened species priceless or worthless?
"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,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) Director of Conservation.
“This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”
Species such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Pygmy Three-toed Sloth have all topped a new list of the species closest to extinction released by the ZSL IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature in September this year.
For the first time ever, 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.
The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, was presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea.
“All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back,” says Ellen Butcher, ZSL, co-author of the report. “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.”
Their declines have 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 deliver results with many species such as Przewalski's Horse (Equus ferus) and Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) have being saved from extinction.