Species on the Edge of Survival

Species on the Edge of Survival
Based on the IUCN’s Red List, Species on the Edge of Survival is a glossy tome with an important raison d’etre – to raise awareness of the plants, birds and animals we stand to lose forever, says Ruth Styles

The International Union for Conservation of Nature [IUCN]’s Red List is famous among wildlife watchers for providing up-to-date and comprehensive data on the fauna and flora currently most under threat. Renewed yearly, the list now runs to a whopping 19,000 species ranging from the cute (Mountain Pygmy Possum) to the positively hideous (Burnup’s Hunter Slug) and from the fearsome (Porbeagle) to the totally harmless (Alaotran Gentle Lemur). Whatever they look like and however likely they are to bite you or not, all have one thing in common: their survival is under threat.

Raising awareness of the creatures on the list has hit a significant snag however. Most people, no matter how concerned, are never going to peruse a long and detailed Excel sheet unless there’s something in it for them. The result is the IUCN's new tome, Species on the Edge of Survival, which introduces 365 creatures from the Red List accompanied by gorgeous, glossy photos and bite-sized chunks of information. Some of the animals featured are familiar – the black rhino and the cheetah for example – while others such as the Pink Fairy Armadillo and Cherry Throated Tanager are practically unheard of. The Tanager, for the record, is a pretty black, red and white bird clinging precariously to life in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. And with less than 50 individuals left, precarious is an understatement of the highest order.

Preventing creatures such as the Tanager from following the likes of the Mammoth, European cave bear and giant blesbok into the history books is precisely why the arrival of Species on the Edge of Survival is so important. As it stands, there still a small amount of time left to halt the eradication of much of the planet’s wildlife but a colossal amount remains to be done; while in some sectors, achievements are being undone thanks to poaching, climate change, habitat destruction and alien species. The much-discussed black rhino is a case in point. With numbers bottoming out at 2,400 in 1995, the population has since increased to 4,200 with 98 per cent residing in protected areas. But thanks to China, Vietnam and Malaysia’s appetite for powdered rhino horn, poaching is once again on the rise, and according to the WWF’s Drew McVey, this time it’s no longer about desperately poor people attempting to eke out a living. This time, he says, it’s organised gangs toting machine guns, silencers and night vision specs who are leading poaching operations. It’s really serious. Two of the South African beasts were found dead and hornless in the past few weeks – a significant blow to a population numbering no more than 250.

Its role in highlighting the plight of the rhino and other, less iconic creatures, is what makes Species such an important addition to the wealth of material available to wildlife lovers, conservationists and the concerned citizen alike. For animal fans, it shows the species soon to be lost. For conservationists, it provides a list of targets for funds and manpower, while for the concerned; it highlights the causes that need to be acted upon. It’s hard, admittedly, to get worked up about the survival of a foul-looking character such as the field cricket or white-humped vulture, while the Burnup’s Hunter Slug looks like a prime candidate for being stamped on, should it get close enough. Nonetheless, their survival is essential – both for the eco-systems they inhabit and for the very future of this planet. Like the charming Northern Muriqui, the adorable Silky Anteater and the beautiful Irrawady Dolphin; that they live on, protected and safe, is of crucial importance. Species on the Edge of Survival for all its glossy images and coffee table looks has a higher purpose to serve: to give an insight into this planet’s wonderful biodiversity and to show just how much poorer we could be if the 19,000 Red Listed species tumble over the edge and into extinction.

Species on the Edge of Survival (£14.99, Collins) is available from Amazon


Add to StumbleUpon
PHOTO GALLERY: Species on the Edge of Survival
From the tiger to the bumblebee, the list of endangered birds, animals and insects is a growing one. Now a new book based on the IUCN Red List is providing an insight into the species under threat
Q&A: Jean-Christophe Vié of the IUCN
Conservation isn’t just for NGOs and governments says IUCN Deputy Director of Global Species, Jean-Christophe Vié: it’s something we all need to work on. Henry Gass met him to find out more
The Really Wild Show: Namibia's pioneering conservancies
From the endless red dunes of the south to the teeming game reserves of Damaraland, Namibia is home to some of the world’s most important eco-systems. Ruth Styles went to find out how local people are helping to preserve them
Walking Thunder: In the Footsteps of the African Elephant
Cyril Christo and Marie Wilkinson’s stunning images highlight the luminous beauty of Africa’s elephants, says Ruth Styles, and show why ending the ivory trade is more important than ever
Saving the World’s Wildlife: WWF’s First Fifty Years
Written to coincide with the WWF’s half century, Saving the World’s Wildlife is a fascinating account of the 50-year history of the world’s most famous eco charity

More from this author