There is some good news about species, and bad news about mammals

There is some good news about species, and bad news about mammals

First, the bad news. Between a fifth and a generous third of the world's mammal species now face the threat of extinction, according to the first comprehensive review since 1996. [See http://www.wwf.it/UserFiles/File/schipper_et_al_2008.pdf.] Data from more than 1,700 experts went into this five-year review of the conservation status of all known wild mammals for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species; there are 5,487 mammalian species, including marine mammals. Despite this enormous effort, it was recognized that there are 836 mammalian species for which there is insufficient data to make an evaluation. Key factors impacting the threatened status of many mammals is habitat loss or degradation, adversely affecting some 40 percent of species studied; hunting for food or medicinal use affected 17 percent of mammal species. Overall, if those species for which there is insufficient data are doing fine, which the researchers consider unlikely, then 21 percent of the currently known 5,487 mammal species face a serious threat of extinction; if all the data-deficient species turn out to be faltering, then 36 percent of known mammals are in trouble. In either case, this is a huge number. Now, some good news. The World Wildlife Fund reports that between 1997 and 2007, 1,068 new species were identified by scientists in the region that comprises the six countries through which the Mekong River flows (including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan). While most species were discovered in the largely unexplored jungles and wetlands, some were first found in surprising places. The Laotian rock rat, for example, thought to be extinct 11 million years ago, was first encountered by scientists in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula pit viper was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand. The findings include 519 plants, 279 fish, 88 frogs, 88 spiders, 46 lizards, 22 snakes, 15 mammals, 4 birds, 4 turtles, 2 salamanders, and a toad; it is also estimated that thousands of new invertebrate species were discovered during this period, further highlighting the region’s immense biodiversity. The report and other information on the discoveries can be found at http://www.divshare.com/folder/443367-922. What both reports bring to the fore is the necessity for the focus to be on habitat preservation, not on the preservation of individual species. Preservation of habitat will help many species of all sorts.