The Zoological Society of London and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) want to know: Are these species absolutely priceless to you or worthless?
The animals, plants, and fungi in question are the 100 most threatened species in the world, identified by more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission. Compiling their findings into one report called Priceless or Worthless?, these scientists are challenging conservation efforts based on the perceived worth of a species. The report will be presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress this week.
With so many of these species’ numbers hanging in a delicate balance, any effort now may unfortunately be too little too late. However, since we share this planet with other amazing animals and have the most power to make a difference, let’s try to do what we can. After all, how would we feel if some greater power deemed us “worthless?”
Apart from its strange name, the wooly spider monkey is also an unusually peaceful primate: Instead of fighting over females, the male wooly spider monkeys patiently wait to mate, allowing females to choose partners without the violence other female primates risk. Residing in Brazil and capturing the imaginations of humans all over (even with its numbers dwindling down to several hundred), the wooly spider monkey is in the running for “flagship species” of the 2016 Olympics Games in Brazil.
(Photo: Peter Schoen/Getty Images)
Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth
The pygmy three-toed sloth is smaller than its mainland brown-throated sloth cousin, but that makes it no less important. Though the island these slow-moving mammals inhabit is not populated with people, visiting fishermen sometimes hunt the sloths, and their forest environment is threatened by human intervention. Maybe we can get Kristen Bell—an avid sloth-lover—to chime in on efforts to save the pygmy three-toed sloth.
(Photo: West Chester Dumonts/Creative Commons via Flickr)
With a beak shaped like an eating utensil, the spoon-billed sandpiper is the “spork” of the animal world, but its astonishing features will soon become a thing of fairytales if we don’t act quickly: Hunting and trapping, as well as depleted habitats, threaten the less than 100 breeding pairs of these endangered birds (Photo: Jeremy West/Getty Images)
The Luristan newt’s habitat consists of only three fast-flowing streams in Iran, and if something is not done quickly, this bright orange, black, and white amphibian is destined to disappear forever. Even though its bright colors indicate the presence of toxic, dangerous secretions, the demand for the Luristan newt in the illegal exotic pet trade threatens, rather than sustains, its population. So, why not just adopt a dog instead? At least dogs won’t kill you if you touch their fur!
(Photo: Dante Fenolio/Getty Images)
The vaquita is the world’s smallest porpoise in size and population. With a name that means “little cow” in Spanish, the vaquita inhabits a small range in the Northern Gulf of California in Mexico. The greatest threat to their numbers is accidental drowning in gillnets used by local artisanal fishermen. But the solution to their survival is more complex than simply withdrawing the nets since fishing is one of the region’s primary sources of income.
The saola was discovered somewhat recently in 1992, and like some sort of unicorn, this mammal that shares genetic material with cows and goats has never been seen by a scientist in its wild rainforest habitat. A victim of hunters and habitat destruction, the number of saola population remains unknown, so it’s possible it’s already at zero.
(Photo: The Green Corridor)
The ghostly silky sifaka, a large lemur, is considered one of the rarest mammals on Earth, so the next time anyone sees one it might just be a wandering spirit. Currently, the animal is listed as critically endangered, with anywhere from 100 to 1,000 left in their home state of Madagascar.
(Photo: Kevin Schafer/Getty Images)
Red Crested Tree Rat
While the red crested tree rat sports a flashy rufous mane, it's rarely on display since only two specimens have ever been collected—one in 1898 and the other in 2011—from the Santa Marta Mountains in Colombia, where urban development and coffee cultivation threaten its habitat and population.
(Photo: American Bird Conservatory)
The Madagascar pochard, thought to be extinct in the late 1990s, was rediscovered in 2006. But the rekindled hope for these rare diving ducks was quickly extinguished: Though captive breeding programs keep their population hovering at around 20 mature individuals, habitat loss, hunting, and fishing may mean the Madagascar pochard can never go home again.
(Photo: Frank.Vassen/Creative Commons via Flickr)
The blue-eyed Cebu frill-wing is a damselfly in distress. In 2001, two years after the insect was discovered, a farmer moved into its habitat, and a combination of deforestation and pesticides put a severe dent in the Cebu frill-wing’s population. The insect was feared lost forever until, strangely, its only remaining site was saved when a person planning on building a house on the land was deported.
Liz Acosta is a writer, artist, and activist living in San Francisco. She likes to practice what she calls "accessible activism," doing what she can to change the world. She loves dogs, photography, bicycles, IPAs, and Britney Spears.