Mammals Facing Extinction Threat
According to The Red List of Threatened Species, the populations of more than half of the world’s mammalian species are declining and at least one quarter are at risk of extinction. The biggest threat to mammals is loss of habitat, including deforestation.
This year’s Red List of Threatened Species examined 5,487 species of mammals, and concluded that 1,141 are currently on the path toward complete disappearance. Moreover, the authors believe this estimate is actually low, due to lack of data, and that more mammalian species may be facing extinction.
Approximately 40% of mammals are compromised due to human expansion into their habitats, which is especially important across the tropics (areas with highest diversity of land-based animals). South and Southeast Asia are also regions where extinctions will be likely to occur in the future, due to the growing size and living standards of humans in the regions.
Hunting for food or medicine is the second biggest threat to animals. On the positive side, where hunting has been controlled and conservation programs implemented, it has been demonstrated that entire species (such as the African elephant) can recover.
For marine animals, bycatch (the unintentional but largely unavoidable entanglement of non-target species in commercial fishing nets) is the biggest factor behind current declines, affecting 79% of marine animals.
The Zoological Society of London is developing a so-called “Dow Jones index” for biodiversity, which they hope will more accurately assess the status of the world’s animal species.