By Hyacinth Mascaren
1 January 2015
(Global Post) – British broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough once asked: “Are we happy to suppose that our grandchildren may never be able to see an elephant except in a picture book?”
This year marked the 100th anniversary of the death of the last passenger pigeon, Martha, who managed to survive only 14 years in captivity after her species became extinct in the wild. More recently, Angalifu, a 44-year-old northern white rhinoceros, died at the San Diego Zoo, leaving just five other white rhinos worldwide, all in captivity. Chances are our grandchildren will never get to see this remarkable creature.
In fact, the world is losing dozens of species every day in what experts are calling the sixth mass extinction in Earth’s history. As many as 30 to 50 percent of all species are moving toward extinction by mid-century — and the blame sits squarely on our shoulders.
“Habitat destruction, pollution or overfishing either kills off wild creatures and plants or leaves them badly weakened,” said Derek Tittensor, a marine ecologist at the World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge. “The trouble is that in coming decades, the additional threat of worsening climate change will become more and more pronounced and could then kill off these survivors.”
About 190 nations met last month at the United Nations climate talks in Lima, Peru to discuss action needed to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions. It ended with a watered-down agreement that seems unlikely to help much in the battle against global warming.
Corruption and illegal online trafficking also threaten conservation efforts. The illegal wildlife trade is an estimated $10-billion-a-year industry. It’s the fifth largest contraband trade after narcotics, fueled by the rising demand for animals as pets, trophies, and ingredients in medicine, food and other products.
There’s no doubt that we’re facing an uphill battle against mankind’s unsustainable greed and consumption, but it’s a battle we can’t afford to lose.
“The thought of having to explain to my children that there were once tigers — real, wild tigers, out there, in the great forests of the world — but that we let them die out, because we were busy — well, it was bad enough explaining about the Tooth Fairy, and that wasn't even my fault,” said English comedian Simon Evans.
Here are a few of the planet’s most endangered animals who we may have to say good-bye to in 2015: [more]