About the event
The face of extinction is constantly changing in the background as we lead our daily lives. What do we think of when we heard the word extinction and what can we do to help?
What is the face of extinction?
The first animals most of us think of is the dinosaurs, one of the few well-known animal groups that have not been affected by human-kind.
Some of you may think of the dodo, as the phrase ‘as dead as a dodo’ is the hit single of the extinction album. Some more familiar with the topic might remember the weird looking quagga, or huge Stellar’s sea cow. But each of these species died out before any of us were born.
Maybe it should be the Poo-uli? Take a moment, the poo-uli is certainly another to add to your list of great bird names. However, the poo-uli is a tiny small black-headed bird that was only found on the island of Maui in Hawaii. It is also one of the species most recently listed as extinct on the IUCN red list, the global authority on the status of the natural world. A mixture of habitat loss, human intrusion and invasive species, the three strikes of extinction, led to its quiet, unobtrusive downfall.
The poo-uli is not as memorable as the dinosaurs, nor as enigmatic as the current conservation pin-ups, the giant panda, polar bear, or tiger. This is understandable, as using enigmatic species to elicit a reaction is a tried and tested way of getting people interested in the fight to save the natural world.
However, it is no secret that these enigmatic species make up only a tiny fraction of the critically endangered organisms worldwide. The IUCN, the global authority on the status of the natural world, estimates that 25% of mammals are threated with extinction. However, this pales in comparison with the less memorable amphibians (41%), conifers (34%), and sharks and rays (30%). If we take into account the huge amount of species yet to be discovered, many of whom small insects that most of us would not even notice if they landed on our nose, then who knows how many more species are teetering on the edge?
It may seem hard to care; species have been disappearing for literally millions of years. However, we are entering the planet’s sixth mass extinction and in the past few years, the scientific community has confirmed the cause we were all expecting: humans. The accelerated loss of any species impacts it habitat and the species around it, and despite efforts to reintroduce animals, returning an ecosystem to its former way of being is much harder than destroying it in the first place.
So what can you do, what specific advice can I give you?
Google. Sorry, or Bing, Ecosia, Duck Duck Go – you get the idea. Go onto a web browser and find out what local species need your help. Be it through changing you behaviour, making a space for nature in your area, volunteering time or donating money, there will be a place for you to make a difference.
On the same list that confirmed the fate of the poo-uli, ten species globally were officially listed as having improved their conservation status. Your challenge is to help find the next hit in the extinction album: a species whose chances are improving.
For those based in the UK, here is a start on some of the projects trying to help its local inhabitants.
The Wildlife Trusts: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/closer-to-nature/volunteer
RSPB Volunteering: https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/volunteering-fundraising/volunteer/
Scottish Wildcat: http://www.scottishwildcataction.org/
Amphibian and Reptile Conservation: https://www.arc-trust.org/
Butterfly Conservation: https://butterfly-conservation.org/how-you-can-help
Operation Turtle Dove: https://www.operationturtledove.org/
New Forest Cicada: http://www.newforestcicada.info/