Study reports bad news for world's mammals
At least one-quarter of the world's known mammal species are at risk of becoming extinct, and about half are declining in population, a global survey released Monday morning has found.
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Some species have made a recovery in recent years. The black-footed ferret, for instance, is no longer extinct in the wild after the US Fish and Wildlife Service mounted an extensive captive-breeding program and successfully reintroduced it into the wild in eight Western states. This ferret, which eats prairie dogs, now appears to have three small but self-sustaining populations in South Dakota and Wyoming.
But the successful recovery efforts are not nearly enough to make up for the declines in other species. "Fifty percent of species are declining and 5 percent of species are in an upward recovery — that's just not enough," Jan Schipper, the mammologist who coordinated the study for the IUCN, told Scientific American.
The study's authors attempted to put their findings in perspective with other global problems, telling the BBC that our current economic concerns should not get in the way of our efforts to halt environmental degradation.
"The financial crisis is nothing compared with the environmental crisis," the deputy head of IUCN's species programme, Jean-Christophe Vie, told BBC News.
"It's going to affect a few people, whereas the biodiversity crisis is going to affect the entire world. So there is a risk that because of the financial crisis, people are going to say 'yeah, the environment is not that urgent'; it is really urgent."
The report comes in a year of dispiriting news for wildlife conservationists. In May, the World Wildlife Fund found that more than than 1 in 4 individuals across all animal species have disappeared in the past 35 years. In July a study published in the journal Nature found that endangered species may face an extinction risk that is up to 100 times greater than previously thought.