Leading environmental figures, including broadcaster Sir David Attenborough and mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, have condemned government plans to drop debate about climate change from the national curriculum for children under 14 as “unfathomable and unacceptable”.
In a letter to the Sunday Times, also signed by academics, politicians and business leaders, they warn the proposals are short-sighted, coming at a time when the loss of wildlife and habitats is ongoing, and evidence suggests many children are missing out on the benefits of spending time in nature.
“Under the new draft national curriculum for England, education on the environment would start three years later than at present and all existing references to care and protection would be removed,” the letter states. “This is both unfathomable and unacceptable. Today’s children are tomorrow’s custodians of nature.
“There is a duty to ensure that all pupils have the chance to learn about threats to the natural world, to be inspired to care for it and to explore ways to preserve and restore it.
“These proposals not only undermine our children’s understanding and love of nature, but ultimately threaten nature itself.”
The letter, signed by 96 people, also including broadcasters Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and Chris Packham, says the government has a commitment “to nurturing our children’s love and respect for nature” under two binding international agreements – the UN convention on the rights of the child and the convention on biological diversity’s Aichi targets.
Sir Chris Bonington has condemned the proposals. Photograph: Mark Pinder
The Guardian revealed last month that draft guidelines for children in key stages 1 to 3 had removed discussion of climate change in the geography syllabus, with only a single reference to how carbon dioxide produced by humans affects the climate in the chemistry section. All references to sustainable development have also been dropped in a move widely interpreted as the result of political interference.
The plans caused alarm among climate campaigners and scientists, with teachers and student groups also criticising the draft guidelines.
A 15-year-old girl started a petition to the education secretary, Michael Gove, to keep climate change in the national curriculum for under 14s, which has attracted more than 28,000 signatures.
Critics have pointed out that one of the dangers of waiting until GCSE courses to teach about climate change in any depth is that only a minority of pupils study geography at that level. The government’s former science adviser, Prof Sir David King, denounced the government proposals as “major political interference with the geography syllabus”.
The proposed changes have been broadly welcomed by some groups, including the Geographical Association, which represents more than 6,000 geography teachers, and the Royal Geographical Society, which said the guidelines provided for a better grounding in geography before students tackle climate change.
The Department for Education has dismissed the idea that climate change is being excised from the national curriculum, insisting “climate and weather feature throughout the geography curriculum”.
It is consulting on the proposed changes but the letter warns that “the place of the natural environment in the national curriculum is more critical than ever”.
- CLIMATE : Teachers should be given free rein to teach climate change in schools (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Climate change cut from national curriculum for children up to 14 (schoolsimprovement.net)
- Climate change cut from national curriculum for children up to 14 (guardian.co.uk)
- BHA news : BHA signs SEF letter calling for strong sex education in national curriculum science (humanism.org.uk)
- CLIMATE CHANGE: Thousands sign school petition started by 15-year-old (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
For 60 years, David Attenborough has should us that nature is neither ‘for us’ nor ‘against us’ – it just is! But we need to learn from nature – lest we lost it by endangering the Earth!
What wisdom springs to mind when you think of the natural world?
From the basics of never saying boo to a goose right through to reconstructing prehistoric giants, one man has been guiding TV audiences through nature’s biological maze for 60 years.
During this time Sir David Attenborough has dedicated himself to bringing science to the small screen, introducing us to parts of the natural world that had never been seen before.
Along the way, he has learned a great deal and here we share a few of the lessons from his incredible career so far.
Predator or potty?
In the 1990s scientists believed the pitcher plant Nepenthes rajah, found in the rainforests of Borneo, gained nitrogen by consuming the bodies of rodents after a tree shrew was found inside the plant’s pitcher-like cavity.
Experts believed the rodent had been tempted there by the carnivorous plant’s nectar before falling to its watery grave.
Researchers from Monash University, Australia, found that the tree shrews were indeed tempted to the plants by nectar, but were not the plant’s prey.
Instead, the mammals were filmed using the pitcher plants as toilets, leaving their nitrogen-rich droppings in the plant’s fluid-filled orifice.
“Most carnivorous plants seek nitrogen and nutrients hard to obtain from their environment so it’s logical that some should specialise in droppings, although animals being trapped is more usual,” explained Dr Martin Cheek, a Nepenthes specialist from the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.
The species was first discovered in 1859 and according to Dr Cheek it has a number of relatives in Borneo that may gain nitrogen in the same way.
“They all have the large pitchers with the pitcher lid presented at the same angle as in Nepenthes rajah that seems to suit the shrews licking the lids, which is thought to stimulate defaecation,” he explained.
Dragon’s deadly kiss
But at the time the plucky crew had no idea just how dangerous the dragons were. It was more than 50 years later that scientists revealed the reptiles had a deadly secret weapon: venomous saliva.
Previously, biologists had thought that the dragons killed large prey with “dirty” mouths. Water buffalo were thought to succumb due to the harmful bacteria present in the reptiles’ mouths, flooding wounds inflicted by the lizards with microbes and eventually causing blood poisoning.
But venom expert Dr Bryan Fry from the University of Melbourne, Australia suspected something else after identifying that lace monitors, close relatives of Indonesia’s infamous dragons, had venomous saliva.
Sir David shared the secret of the world’s largest venomous reptile in the series Life and since then Dr Fry has continued to analyse their fearsome feeding method in detail.
Learning to survive
“The role of the venom is to exaggerate the blood loss and shock-inducing mechanical damage caused by the bite,” said Dr Fry who described the reptiles as possessing an “arsenal of weapons” to use when hunting feral pigs, deer and water buffalo on the island.
He has since found that the dragons wound their prey with a devastating “grip and rip” technique and is now investigating the reptiles’ environment to understand where the initial bacteria theory came from.
“The sampling of komodo mouths that purported to show them harbouring pathogenic bacteria neglected to sample the real source of any infection to the water buffalo – the faeces-filled watering hole the dragons recently drank from,” he explained.
“We are hot on the heels of what kind of bacteria in the water actually cause the infection of the buffalo when it does occur.”
Until the 1960s certain species of birds were upheld as examples of monogamy in the natural world. But through further investigation, ornithologists found that species previously considered ‘loyal’ were actually playing away.
The development of DNA techniques provided unequivocal evidence that females in seemingly monogamous pairs would occasionally pair off with a different male to mate.
In 1998, Sir Attenborough highlighted the infidelity of female hedge sparrows and since then so-called “affairs” have been recorded in 80% of all bird species studied.
Ornithological reproduction expert Prof Tim Birkhead of Sheffield University suggests it was a change in human perspectives that opened the doors for these discoveries.
“Observations of avian infidelity go back to the 1950s; their significance wasn’t appreciated until the late 1960s, 1970s when our view of evolution changed and became more focussed on individuals,” he told BBC Nature.
Scientists are now studying the motivation behind this behaviour. Although males clearly benefit from this opportunistic mating, the benefits for females are yet to be fully understood.
“The latest or most persistent mystery is why females bother. We don’t know what they get out of it,” said Prof Birkhead.
In the 2008 series Life in Cold Blood Sir David and colleagues set out to lift the lid on the world of reptiles and amphibians.
The team visited New York state and filmed a memorable sequence of anunsuspecting mouse being bitten by a timber rattlesnake in the dead of night.
The footage captured has since been painstakingly analysed by researchers, frame-by-frame, to explain striking behaviour in wild snakes.
This summer, assistant Prof Rulon Clarke and colleagues from San Diego State University, California, US published their results which suggest that rattlesnakes only strike at prey once it has passed them.
“In laboratory experiments, snakes rarely miss their prey. But in the wild, interaction between snakes and their prey is much more complicated,” explained Prof Clarke.
He told BBC Nature that in the wild, if the snake is too far away from its target, its prey will perform evasive dodges to stay safe.
“For this reason, snakes seem to time their strikes so that they are striking at prey when it is very close, but also when it is moving away,” he said.
The team’s observations explain why snake bites are found on the flank of prey.
“Without recording the snakes in the wild, we would have no real idea of how difficult it is for them to actually land a strike on a free-ranging prey item, subject to all the vagaries of the natural environment.”
One thing is common to all of these lessons; learning is an ongoing process.
What we know now could be considered ridiculous, old-fashioned or basic in another 60 years but as long as discoveries are shared in rich detail they inspire further investigation by others.
Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild begins at 2100 on BBC Two, Friday 16 November.
Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/20273855
- Sir David Attenborough picks 10 animals he would take on his ark (telegraph.co.uk)
- Sir David Attenborough is still the best, naturally (express.co.uk)
- Attenborough’s Ark (neatorama.com)
- WILDLIFE UPDATE : Attenborough – asking us to ‘learn from nature’ and not ignore the signs! (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- United Kingdom: ‘Leave the badgers alone,’ says Sir David Attenborough. ‘The real problem is the human population’ (independent.co.uk)
- Looking for a Toilet on Mount Kinabalu (blogs.scientificamerican.com)
Naturalist Attenborough is a man with a mission – to switch us on to our amazing environment – and the damages we are causing, now! Henricus Peters
David Attenborough may have lived the perfect life, travelling the world and seeing its wonders before tourism ravaged them. He talks to The Observer’s Robin McKie about his early regrets, battles with climate-change deniers, and his favourite place on Earth
It is hard to believe that David Attenborough has ever mistreated a single animal in his life. This is a man for whom the natural world is sacred, after all. Yet midway through our interview, organised to promote his new television series Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild, a crestfallen look crosses the great naturalist’s features when I ask if he has any regrets about his career.
“Jumping on animals. I regret that,” he states. I blink in disbelief. It is as if Judi Dench had admitted to glue-sniffing. Attenborough explains. “Fifty years ago, I used to go along, chase a giant anteater and pull it by the tail so we could film it. I am sorry about that sort of thing. But those were different days.”
Then there was the time he and his crew were stuck in Borneo and strapped for something to film. “I found a little crocodile and we did a cod sequence with it. We filmed it close up so that it looked like a really big crocodile. I then took off my shirt and jumped on it. Everyone thought I had a fight with a full-sized crocodile. ‘God you were brave,’ they told me. I wish I hadn’t done that.”
And as for eating turtle eggs, he pulls a face. “They were horrible, salty. I wished I hadn’t done that either.”
As crimes against nature, these are minor transactions, it must be admitted. Yet they are informative – for it is easy to forget how attitudes to wildlife have changed since Attenborough began his career in 1952 on programmes such as The Pattern of Animals and, later, Zoo Quest. Wild creatures were still viewed from a Victorian perspective in those days. They were there to be tracked, captured, tied up and brought back to Britain to be goggled at. Attenborough was no different from other naturalists at the time, he admits.
Zoo Quest was certainly made in that mould, he believes. For the nine years it aired, Attenborough would travel with staff from London Zoo to a tropical country to capture an animal for the zoo’s collection, a practice that was considered to be perfectly acceptable at the time. Attenborough’s first assignment was to track down a white-necked Picathartes in Sierra Leone on the grounds that no other zoo in Europe had one or even knew what it looked like. “I thought: ‘Oooh, a bird that no one has ever even seen. I must become the first European to get one.’ It was very childish really.”
Today Attenborough, like the rest of us, has a far more respectful attitude to animals, as the new series makes clear. Indeed, ifAttenborough: 60 Years in the Wild has a theme it is that of transition. How attitudes to the natural world have changed and how knowledge of living things has been transformed by modern science. Not to mention the leap that has taken place in the film technology bringing the wonders of the world into our front rooms, from clockwork, wind-up cameras to stop-frame photography and thermal imaging.
An example of these technological changes is provided in the living room of Attenborough’s own elegant west London home. It is dominated, not by images of wildlife or native art, as you might expect, but by a giant 50in 3D television. Now Attenborough is certainly no geek – he can’t drive and has trouble answering his mobile phone, he says – but he has pioneered a recent series of 3D programmes for Sky. He is clearly in thrall to the technology and keen to demonstrate its wonders.
Attenborough bustles round the set, pulling out discs from a Blu-ray player, and flicking through scenes. The tasks involve a great deal of kneeling and bending over, which Attenborough accomplishes with no hint of stiffness or back pain that would leave many younger men groaning. Dressed in an open-neck light-blue shirt, chino slacks and loafers – an Attenborough uniform to judge from other interviews – he could easily pass for a man 20 years younger and is clearly determined to keep up with the latest developments in his profession.
“I began my career in broadcasting on the old 405 line, black-and-white TV that was broadcast from Crystal Palace,” he adds. “I wasn’t going to say no to doing a programme in 3D that would be displayed on huge colour screens when I was offered the chance.
“On the other hand, as a medium, 3D TV is certainly not perfect. You are limited to what you photograph. You cannot use long focal lenses because of problems with background. And the cameras require two or three men to carry them. But oh, when you see time-lapse photography of plants flowering in 3D, the results are absolutely mesmeric.”
However, the real change in our perspective of the natural world is not due to improvements in TV technology but has been achieved through scientific revolutions, particularly in the fields of biology and geology. These have been the real game changers, Attenborough believes. “We forget what we have learned in the last 60 years. At university I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could I prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.”
Yet we now know that continental drift explains a vast amount about the variation in the planet’s plants and animals – for example the presence of similar families of earthworms in central Africa and in central South America – continents which were once attached to each other. Continental drift featured strongly in Life on Earth, Attenborough’s first great series on the natural world, in 1979. What his old lecturer made of the programme is not recorded.
Since then a host of great scientific visionaries have been interviewed by Attenborough, with Konrad Lorenz providing an unforgettable early start. Lorenz won a Nobel prize for physiology for his work on animal behaviourand had an astonishing affinity with many species, in particular greylag geese. Would he like to appear on TV and demonstrate that empathy on the air, Attenborough asked.
Lorenz agreed and was filmed clutching a goose provided by London Zoo. “Komm, komm, mein Liebchen,” he murmured to the unhappy animal which, as Attenborough relates, eventually squirted a jet of green dung straight at the great scientist, covering his trousers. Lorenz released the goose, wiped his clothes with his handkerchief before absent-mindedly blowing his nose with it. He completed his interview, on camera, with a green smear down his face.
Other stars to receive homage in 60 Years in the Wild include Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey for their ape-observation work, Francis Crick and Jim Watson for their discovery of the structure of DNA, and Richard Dawkins for his ideas about the selfish gene. “These people have completely transformed our understanding of the animal world. We see the world very differently today thanks to them.”
Finding ways to film these scientific visions has taken Attenborough to every conceivable place on the planet. He donned a diving suit for underwater sequences filmed for The Trials of Life in 1990; has been lifted to the top of rainforests by cranes; spat at by cobras; flattened by a belligerent Scottish capercaillie; and, of course, been groomed by gorillas in that glorious sequence in Life on Earth.
So which spot on the planet would he recommend to give people a chance to enjoy living creatures at their best? The Galápagos with their iguanas? The Amazon rainforest? His answer comes as a surprise. “People say you cannot beat the rainforest. But that is simply not true. You go there and the first thing you think is: where the hell are the birds? Where are the animals? They are hiding in the trees, of course. No, if you want beauty and wildlife, you want a coral reef. Put on a mask and stick your head under the water. The sight is mind-blowing.
“And that, actually, is still a mystery: why are coral reefs so beautiful and colourful? It is not immediately obvious, though the wildlife is wonderful: shell-less molluscs, crustaceans and shoals of fish that do not give a damn whether you are there or not. Your first trip to a coral reef will be one of the most transforming moments of your life.”
There is, of course, a downside. Coral reefs are now being destroyed at a staggering rate. Some estimates suggest around 600 square miles are lost every year, a rate double that of rainforest destruction. Reefs are dying because ocean waters are being acidified as carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere as a result of human industrial activity. At the same time, rainforests are being ploughed up for farmland.
And this takes us to the darker side of the changes that Attenborough has seen in 60 years. Just as we are learning more and more about the glories of the living world, and as new breath-taking visions are being brought into our homes, we are destroying these wonders at an accelerating rate. It is a simple question of numbers, says Attenborough. “There is no problem on Earth that could not be solved quite easily if you could reduce world population. The reason that oil palms are being planted all over the place is because there are so many mouths, so many people in the west offering to pay for these forests to be cut down and palms planted for margarine, for plastics.”
Plastic refuse turns out to be a particular concern for Attenborough, who is working on a film that will highlight the crises facing our oceans. “It is just tragic,” says Attenborough. “You have got an albatross that comes back to feed its young. In close-up, it regurgitates the stuff it has been collecting round the world’s oceans for 10 days to feed its chicks and what comes out? Bits of plastic. And then you see the chicks swallowing this plastic. If you warm the plastic, it gives off dioxins. And the litter of this stuff. You can only get rid of it if you can burn it – and then it gets worse.”
It is a grim picture, though Attenborough is not without some shred of optimism. “If I have to grasp for little threads of hope, one is that humans are going to be better informed about the state of the world than they have ever been in the planet’s history. Kids in Tibet are going to be talking to people in Patagonia about what is happening to the Earth and there is a chance that a worldwide, slow protest movement will grow with younger people wanting something to be done.”
Much of their awareness of the living world and the perils facing its wildlife will have come from Attenborough, of course. In the past, he was criticised for not making clear his position on global warming, and for not taking on those who deny that climate change is occurring. However, in the past few years, he has been far more explicit in his warnings about the dangers our planet faces as it warms up and the polar regions melt.
Not surprisingly, these attempts at enlightenment have brought him into conflict with those who reject the idea that the Earth is in peril. For example, in the final episode of his last major series, Frozen Planet, Attenborough highlighted the impact of global warming on the polar regions. He pointed out that summer sea ice cover has declined by more than 30% over the past few decades and is causing major disruptions to the wildlife.
Nigel Lawson, former chancellor and leading climate-change denier, was unamused. “Sir David’s alarmism is sheer speculation,” he claimed after the programme was transmitted last year. “When it comes to global warming, [Attenborough] seems to prefer sensation to objectivity.” Attenborough, said Lawson, should have acknowledged that although the extent of Arctic sea ice has been declining over the past 30 years, satellite observations have also shown that, at the other pole, Antarctic sea ice has been expanding over the same period.
Sensationalism is not an accusation that many have made about Attenborough in the past. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and was awarded the Order of Merit in 2005. He does not, generally, shoot his mouth off and many scientists were quick to jump to his defence. These included oceanographers who pointed out that yes, summer sea ice in Antarctica has increased over the past 30 years, but only slightly – by about 0.4 million square kilometres, an upward trend that may actually be no more than a reflection of year-to-year variability. By contrast summer sea ice in the Arctic has declined in extent by about 3 million square kilometres in the past 30 years: a vast decrease. Lawson was guilty of being economical with the truth, to put it mildly.
So what does Attenborough think about climate change deniers like Lawson? What should be done to counter their highly selective views about global warming?
“Well, it is difficult to know what to say except that people like him have to be allowed to make these claims so that others can assess them. Any idea of suppressing their views would be disastrous. We need to be able to see just how wrong-headed they are and how selective they are in picking data to support their ideas. They pinpoint examples to say global warming cannot be happening because it got colder in some area of the planet. That is the sort of thing they say. But, of course, that completely misunderstands the global nature of the crisis we are facing. We have to keep pointing that out. Certainly I think that most people would recognise that Lawson is up a gum tree.
“The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”
Attenborough: 60 Years in the Wild begins on BBC2 on 16 November at 9pm
- CLIMATE CHANGE : David Attenborough: ‘US politicians avoid the issue due to cost’ (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Attenborough’s treasured Lear bird prints reproduced for Folio Society (guardian.co.uk)
- VIDEO: Attenborough’s Edward Lear prints (bbc.co.uk)
- Life on Air: David Attenborough (milkandcookies.com)
- david attenborough penguins in 3D (thesun.co.uk)
- David Attenborough: force of nature (bfreenews.com)
- David Attenborough celebrates his own Diamond Jubilee with new BBC series 60 Years In The Wild (dailymail.co.uk)
- David Attenborough: ‘I used chameleon to deter potential car thieves’ (digitalspy.co.uk)
- Sir David Attenborough picks 10 animals he would take on his ark (telegraph.co.uk)
- David Attenborough: U.S. politicians duck climate change because of cost (grist.org)
Attenborough: Will it take a terrible case of example of extreme weather to wake people up? Maybe – but this writer hopes folks are slow becoming more aware – and taking positive action to learn from Nature!
One of the world’s leading naturalists has accused US politicians of ducking the issue of climate change because of the economic cost of tackling it and warned that it would take a terrible example of extreme weather to wake people up to the dangers of global warming.
Speaking just days after the subject of climate change failed to get a mention in the US presidential debates for the first time in 24 years, Sir David Attenborough told the Guardian: “[It] does worry me that most powerful nation in the world, North America, denies what the rest of us can see very clearly [on climate change]. I don’t know what you do about that. It’s easier to deny.”
Asked what was needed to wake people up, the veteran broadcaster famous for series such as Life and Planet Earth said: “Disaster. It’s a terrible thing to say, isn’t it? Even disaster doesn’t do it. There have been disasters in North America, with hurricanes and floods, yet still people deny and say ‘oh, it has nothing to do with climate change.’ It visibly has got [something] to do with climate change.”
But some US politicians found it easier to deny the science on climate change than take action, he said, because the consequence of recognising the science on man-made climate change “means a huge section from the national budget will be spent in order to deal with it, plenty of politicians will be happy to say ‘don’t worry about that, we’re not going to increase your taxes.’”
Romney used Obama’s commitment to taking action on climate changeas a joke in his convention speech. The president later hit back by saying ”and yes, my plan will continue to reduce the carbon pollution that is heating our planet because climate change is not a hoax. More droughts and floods and wildfires are not a joke.” However, environmentalists have been critical of Obama’s silence on the subject and the Green party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, went as far as saying it meant he was, in effect, “another climate denier”.
Attenborough said he thought the US’s attitude towards climate change and the environment was not just because of politics, but because of the country’s history. “[It's] because they’re a pioneer country. There has been the wild west, the western frontier… that’s still there, you see it in the arms business, the right for everyone to bear arms. It’s part of the pioneer stuff that you’ve [Americans] grown up with.”
By contrast, he said, people in the UK had “grown up with a mythology of black industry and wrecking the countryside.”
The current financial crisis has made it problematic for politicians to show leadership on climate change, Attenborough acknowledged. “Well it’s a very difficult time to do it [show leadership]. In times of recession, it’s a very difficult time to advance these arguments [on the urgency of tackling climate change] that mean you have to spend even more money and take money from taxes to do things,” he said.
Yet he also warned that it was becoming clear the impacts of climate change were worst than had been expected. Talking about the record Arctic sea ice melt this summer, he said: “The situation is worse than we thought [in the Arctic]. The processes of melting are more volatile than we thought. More complicated. The ice cap is really melting faster than we thought.”
The 86-year-old naturalist, who is also a patron of the charity Population Matters, said many of the environmental problems the world faced could be helped by addressing human population, which is believed to have reached the 7 billion mark last year, and is forecast to reach 10 billion by the middle of the century.
The solution, he said, was to raise living standards and increase democracy in developing countries. “The only way I can think of it [tackling population] is by giving women the rights to control their own bodies and control how many children they have. In every circumstance where women have that right, where they have the vote, where they are proper medical facilities, where they are literate, where they are given the choice, the birth rate falls,” he said. “That is a good start, if that could be spread.”
The 100 species at risk of extinction – because man has no use for them! 48 countries, including Britain, urged to help prevent loss of our ‘weird and wonderful’ creatures. The Independent reports
The spoon-billed sandpiper, three-toed sloth and a long-beaked echidna named after Sir David Attenborough are among the 100 most endangered species in the world, according to a new study.
The list of at-risk species has been published as conservationists warn that rare mammals, plants and fungi are being sacrificed as their habitats are appropriated for human use.
More than 8,000 scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature‘s Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) helped compile the list of species closest to extinction, which was published by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
Conservationists fear the species in 48 countries, including Britain, may die out because they don’t offer obvious benefits to humans.
The list is headed by the “weird and wonderful” spoon-billed sandpiper which breeds in Russia and migrates to Bangladesh and Myanmar. There are just 100 breeding pairs of the birds left in the wild with that number declining by a quarter annually.
There are also just 500 pygmy three-toed sloths left on the uninhabited Isla Escudo de Veraguas, 10 miles off the coast of Panama. They are half the size of sloths found on the mainland and are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world. But their numbers are declining with fishermen and lobster divers “opportunistically” hunting the small animals, the report said.
Within Britain, the brightly-coloured Willow Blister fungus which grows only on trees in Pembrokeshire is listed as being critically at risk of extinction due to “limited availability of habitat”. The report warns that a single “catastrophic event” could cause its total destruction.
Zaglossus attenboroughi, or Attenborough’s echidna, named after the eminent naturalist and BBC wildlife expert, is one of just five surviving species of monotreme, ancient egg-laying mammals found in Australia and New Guinea 160 million years ago. Today the mammal’s home is the Cyclops Mountains of the Papua Province of Indonesia but it has been listed as in danger due to the destruction of its habitat by loggers, agricultural encroachment and hunting.
Professor Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL’s director of conservation, said: “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 prioritised according to the services they provide for people.
“This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the plant. While the utilitarian value of nature is important, conservation goes beyond this. Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”
The ZSL’s Ellen Butcher, who co-wrote the report, said: “All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist.”
Most endangered: facts and figures
Araripe manakin, Antilophia bokermanni
Where found: Brazil
Numbers left: 779
Sumatran rhinoceros, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis
Where found: Malaysia and Indonesia
Numbers left: 250 individuals
Pygmy three-toed sloth, Bradypus pygmaeus
Where found: Panama
Numbers left: 500
Spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus
Where found: Russia, Bangladesh and Burma
Numbers left: 100 breeding pairs
Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus avunculus
Where found: Vietnam
Numbers left: 200
- 100 species at risk of extinction (nzherald.co.nz)
- The 100 Species Closest To Extinction (news.sky.com)
- Priceless or Worthless? The world’s most threatened species (bluesyemre.com)
- Conservationists Issue Plea to Save 100 Most Endangered Species (commondreams.org)
- Experts release list of Earth’s 100 most threatened species (ctvnews.ca)
- IUCN Lists 100 Most Threatened Species (naturenplanet.com)
- Experts release list of 100 endangered species (todayonline.com)
- The world’s 100 most endangered species (familysurvivalprotocol.com)
- Experts release list of 100 threatened species (kansascity.com)
- Species closest to extinction (cbsnews.com)