The World's Endangered Species List Is Endangered

By Rachel Cernansky | March 12, 2009 4:47 pm

800px-hawaii_turtle_2.jpgThe Red List, the world’s most frequently consulted resource for information on endangered species, has come under criticism by scientists and conservationists, some of whom themselves contribute to the list, for being flawed and unscientific. The list, put out annually by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is used to raise awareness and funds for conservation, to inform environmental impact studies, and as a tool for lobbyists.

But many are now questioning the list’s accuracy, saying that the volunteer-collected data is unreliable, and the criteria the IUCN uses to interpret that data are haphazard. “The Red List wants to be a high standard, scientifically based, transparent system, but in reality it hasn’t been” [ABC News], says Matthew Godfrey, one of the specialists who helps compile the list. Green turtles, for example, are classified as endangered despite a population that exceeds two million. “Green turtles are not going to disappear”, said Dr Brendan Godley of … the Marine Turtle Specialist Group. Although some populations of green turtle are at serious risk from egg harvesting, “it’s just not the same level of risk as a population of 50 parrots living on a small island that are being deforested” [The Telegraph].

Species are placed “at risk” if their numbers fall below set thresholds. But these can throw up inconsistencies and some conservationists claim they are biased towards mammals [The Telegraph]. Atte Komonen, a biologist in Sweden, said, “A thousand elephants might well be viable, but 1000 beetles is very unlikely to be, not least because they might occupy a single tree that could go up in smoke” [ABC News]. Use of the “precautionary principle” is another point of contention, because it results in groups demanding stronger proof that species numbers have risen than fallen, potentially exaggerating extinction risks. “There is a tension between following scientific principles or precautionary conservation principles”, said [herpetologist] Grahame Webb [The Telegraph].

The criticisms are being aired in a series of articles in the journal Endangered Species Research. The reality of the list, some say, is that it is essentially a product of guesswork. “The process is supposed to capture that uncertainty, but the uncertainty is not transmitted when the results are published, or used to inform policy,” says [ecologist Adrian] Newton, who argues that the Red List should not be used to judge the success of the 2010 goal of the Convention on Biological Diversity next year…. [And] even though the IUCN frequently points out that the Red List should not be used alone to set conservation priorities, it often is, and this means money can be wasted on species that could be better spent elsewhere [ABC News].

Related Content:
80beats: Obama Brings Experts Back to Endangered Species Policy
80beats: Cacophony in the Oceans May Confuse Whales and Drown Out Their Songs

Image: Wikimedia

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • UncleAl

    EVERY species is endangered. All civilization must be ended.

    “The giant flying vampire toad (actually a species of frog, Hylidae — and the only toothed frog at that) preys only on golfers. It weighs about 20 pounds and has been reduced to nesting in one copse of trees at one hole of the Valhalla Golf Club in Florida, waiting for golfers to pass underneath. It glides down on a slimy, leathery membrane stretched between its legs, fastens its two hollow teeth into the golfer’s neck, and sucks his blood. Golfers avoid golf where the toad lives, so the Federal government declared the toad an endangered species and ordered Florida to select golfers at random to feed the vampires. Florida sued, and the Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Endangered Species Act was not intended to protect species that deserved to be extinct. Last I heard, the Supreme Court had ordered that the case be re-heard in another Circuit where the judges did not play golf in Florida.”

    OMNI, June 1980, “Save the Toad!”, Norman Spinrad

  • Jose

    Are you on crack?

  • http://jackieanimals jackie

    i feel so bad for the turdles

  • jjj45677

    we need to do something to save our planet we can’t susrvive withoiut these animals. believe it or not but turtles are just as important to us as the plants that give us AIR and the animals we eat. we need these creatures to keep us living. Save the world or put humans to extinction!!!!!!!

  • audra

    “The animals we eat” are far more a burden than a necessity, to humans AND the environment. Animal products are linked to all kinds of diseases and cancers. The environmental cost of raising a single cow is worse than that of driving an SUV from Florida to Alaska and back. The problem is that most people don’t bother to question the Dairy and Beef Council propaganda they are fed since birth. Those councils are out for profit, not your health, and certainly not for the environment.

    It pains me to see someone mention saving the planet and humans in the same paragraph along with the importance of animals as food, when that sentiment is the very root of both our ecological and health crises.

  • Kenny

    The animals we eat is wat keeps us alive you f***tards!!!

    [Moderator’s note: edited for profanity.]

  • Qin


  • kim

    there are so meny speshies out there no 1 can conserv the butty of them all

  • shelby

    why dont people help the animals? they need as much help as us they deserve to live so why should they die just because of us.

  • Marissa

    I feel so sorry for the animals on the red list. I myself have an addicting attachment to the Giant Panda! Everything gets extinct anyway. Humph. I agree with Shelby here! Because of us all the animals are dieing. We take over their homes. We deforest places. We kill them for fun and furs. I mean, if your starving or dieng or have no money for food, sure, but if you want to kill them for the fun of it then you truly are an idiot. How would you guys like it if dogs or your pet were extinct, hm? THEN you would feel bad, right? One day we will all die and become extinct. But for now we have to take into htought the feelings of the animals. By the way, this is coming from a 13 year old. See, even kids care. We may not show it, but we do.If we kill them and they die…well..then WE DESERVE TO DIE TOO!!! *pwned*

  • Steph

    If everybody in the world had attude’s like Kim and Kenny we would really be in trouble. People use your brains and try to “work together” for a better cause.

  • Arthur

    hey everybody! animals are awesome!!!!! I am one. watch my show every weekday at 3:00 and happy halloween!

  • Malialiandra

    We need to keep animals alive. How would you like it if your kids learn about an animal that became extint the years you were alive? What are you going to tell them? Are you going to lie to them? Well we need to keep all animals alive. Or else our kids will feel like we did nothing to help these animals. Your kid will ask you, ”Why didn’t you save them?” What will you say then?

    I am a 6th grader and I belive that no matter how old you are we can still make an effort to save the wildlife and let this world live with happiness with animals living wild and free. For our kids sake, Lets take a stand for these endangered animals

  • sam

    this is not a list

  • juan Paulo

    We need to keep the animals alive to see them in another generation .Animals balancing the environment if all animals are gone house our life? Even that animals is so venomous in the wolrd we need to keep them alive because they are part of the world lets join the campaign for animals.


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