Today’s wildlife are in peril, facing a variety of threats that test their survivability. To illustrate the crisis magnitude, a new Animal Endangerment Map has been presented that reflects the conservation status of globally threatened species.
Species survival is vital to preserving biodiversity and a region’s unique natural history but progress has not been kind to flora and fauna of late.
What’s causing species endangerment? Some threats are natural, like disease, for instance. However, the main culprits are because of human activities alone. Climate change, habitat loss (deforestation, urban/suburban development, agriculture, livestock farming), illegal trapping and poaching for wildlife trade, invasive species, overexploitation (excess hunting, overfishing, over-harvesting of aquatic resources) and pollution all have the human footprint.
Human population growth fundamentally leaves less room for wildlife species. And as ecosystems are weakened, many species are forced to adapt quickly or face extinction in the decades ahead.
The newly devised Animal Endangerment Map collates and analyzes data from both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The map classifies global animal distributions as vulnerable, endangered or extinct.
How the species are assigned into the various categories is based on two factors standardized by the IUCN and WWF – the population size, as well as the amount of population decline over the previous 10 years or three generations.
The Animal Endangerment Map has determined that the United States currently has 1,283 total species at risk. They are further sub-categorized as follows: 237 extinct, 4 extinct in the wilderness, 214 critically endangered, 277 endangered and 551 vulnerable.
It is hoped data provided by the Animal Endangerment Map can assist in efforts to secure habitats and to sustain entire species. With this information, researchers and governments can address target areas for preservation.
The map, interestingly, has a toggle feature that displays data from 10 years ago to correlate with present day results, thereby allowing users to longitudinally compare conservation status of various species. Hence, the information provided can reveal efficacy and long-term feasibility of programs as they develop and are implemented.
More importantly, past initiatives have proven that well-managed protected areas can escape from the brink, allowing species to recover. It is hoped therefore that the Animal Endangerment Map can inspire well-informed conservation action to safeguard the wildlife that currently need help.