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Sierra Daily

Sep 14, 2012

Looking For A Little Love

Sumatran rhino iStock_000017842068XSmallWhat does the Sumatran rhino need to do to get some love? The critically endangered ungulate, which numbers only 400, is not the only creature in this predicament. This week the International Union for Conservation of Nature released “Priceless or Worthless?”, a look at the world’s 100 most threatened animal, plant, and fungi species. The report concludes that all of them may be allowed to die out “because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.”

"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 prioritized according to the services they provide for people," says Jonathan Baillie, conservation director at the Zoological Society of London and a co-author of the report. "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?"

Since it’s mainly human activity that has caused all these species to decline, we should cringe. Straightforward conservation efforts can go a long way to help the pygmy three-toed sloth of Panama, the Jamaican iguana, and the spoon-billed sandpiper, which breeds in Russia and winters in Southeast Asia, say the report’s authors. They point to conservation success stories like the humpback whale and central Asia’s Przewalski's horse to help people shift their perspective from “why bother?” to “why not?”

For a compelling look at what we’re missing, read the full report here. The Guardian offers a quick gallery here.

Image of Sumatran rhino (in Malaysia's Malacca Zoo) by iStock/Kelvinyam

HS_ReedMcManusReed McManus is a senior editor at Sierra. He has worked on the magazine since Ronald Reagan’s second term. For inspiration, he turns to cartoonist R. Crumb’s Mr. Natural, who famously noted: “Twas ever thus.”

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