The UN Biodiversity Summit is currently taking place from 2-17 December in Cancun, Mexico and let‘s hope some courageous decisions can be taken which will make a difference to planetary resource management.
The following vital issues are under discussion at the summit:
- Access to Genetic Resources and benefit-sharing
- Ecosystem approach
- Global biodiversity strategy and targets
- Invasive alien species
- Protected areas
- Sustainable development
- Human rights and indigenous peoples
- Oceans and coasts
- Impact assessment
- International negotiation
- Monitoring and evaluation
For more information on the summit:
Wildlife conservation is a dynamic, ongoing enterprise, and new species are constantly identified and charted by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
There are over 700 newly added bird species, bringing the bird total to approximately 11 000 but the bad news is that 13 of the new additions are already extinct: never to be seen again on this planet or in this dimension: a sobering thought. One of these is the Pagan Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus yamashinae), lost due to changes in its natural habitat. For instance non-indigenous snakes now roam their natural habitat, Pagan Island in the Marianas. Strangely enough Pagan Island is no longer inhabited by humans either, due to increased volcanic activity which began in 1981.
African Grey parrots were at risk of forever vanishing from their natural home forests but fortunately all international trade in these parrots was banned in October so they now have a sporting chance, even if some black market specimens fall through the safety net. In some places their numbers dwindled by 99%.
Luckily some species have successfully increased due to concentrated reintroduction efforts. The Seychelles white-eye was once thought extinct but now number about 500 individuals.
A freshwater fish from Madagascar was spotted, which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s.
This tale reminds me of the coelacanth, a fish which was discovered off the southeastern coast of South Africa in 1938 and a second species off Indonesia in1998. The coelacanth was considered to have disappeared 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous Period. Nature is truly full of surprises!
Incidentally coelacanth have no value as a food source as they taste so terrible and their oily sliminess can cause major diarrhoea. It’s considered that other fish-eating mammals will also avoid it. Maybe this is why they survived so long!
Altogether more than 85 000 species are identified on the so-named Red List, of which about 24 000 are at “risk of extinction.” There just isn’t enough data on numerous species which could be slipping away into oblivion before the lists can be updated.
The world giraffe population has sadly declined by 40% in the last 30 years, from 157 000 in 1985 to 97 500 today. According to Sir David Attenborough there are seven countries where they are no longer found.
South Africa’s giraffe population is thriving but in Tanzania their numbers have dropped by 80%.
Meanwhile our own human species has mushroomed from 4.8 billion then to 7.5 billion now. Over 50% of the world’s land surface is dominated by human activity and the wilderness has reduced by 1.7 million square miles in the last 25 years.
On a brighter note areas set aside for conservation have increased by 2.7 million square miles and now cover 14% of the world’s land surface. But many of these are not in the most vital regions where vulnerable plant and animal species need it most.
The natural world is suffering mass extinction with two-thirds of species which were extant in 1970 expected to have gone by 2020. The eastern gorilla and the whale shark have become rarer, while the prospects of the giant panda, symbol of the World Wildlife Fund, are looking a bit rosier.
The WWF recently warned that our planet could run out of food fish by 2048:
For the first time the Red List contains data on 233 wild relatives of popular crop plants. Some of these have also suffered loss. Four species of wild mango are endangered and the Kalimantan mango (Mangifera casturi) is already extinct.
Relatives of the sunflower, chickpea and asparagus also face survival challenges.
We need to take care that our own species doesn’t disappear due to our ever increasing footprint stamping out other species, even plants needed for our health and wellbeing. The finely tuned balance is out of harmony and that cannot be good. Diversity is suffering and our grandchildren might be lucky to see animals in the flesh which we took for granted in our time. The giraffe is such a majestic creature that its loss would be immeasurable.
The earth is patient but we need to mend our ways before the last leaf falls from the last tree, the last droplet of clean water evaporates to oblivion and the last elephant lies down under it to breathe its last.
Let us all be better custodians of our home planet!