Half of all mammals found worldwide are in decline, and one in four is at risk of going extinct, according to a new report by the authority on world biodiversity.
The latest IUCN Red List report on mammals is another sobering reminder that humanity is consuming more of the world’s natural resources than the Earth can sustain. Deforestation and other habitat losses, along with hunting, are the main reasons for the documented decline among half of the world’s 5,487 species, according to a Reuters account of the new study.
While isolated populations of certain animals are increasing — 5% of mammalian species overall — often due to the hands-on efforts of governments and conservation groups, the larger trends are all pointing toward an extinction crisis. And the threat is not isolated to mammals. Similar reports have identified crises among birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects. Overall, 38% of species known to man are at risk of extinction.
Biologists have warned that the Earth is facing another mass extinction event, when a significant portion of the diversity now known will disappear. Unlike past extinction events, caused by meteor strikes, climactic shifts spawned by volcanoes or other natural phenomena, this extinction has one primary cause: humans.
The spiritual loss from the extinction of any one species is likely greater than the actual loss. But it’s important to remember that the next medicinal cure, biochemical breakthrough or natural remedy could be lost forever with the loss of a single species. And it’s also important to remember that the loss of a species can often have a spiraling effect on its ecosystem. That, particularly, can be the case when large mammalian predators disappear, and their prey is left to run amok.
While 76 mammals have gone extinct in the last 500 years, hundreds could go extinct this century alone, the report’s authors warned.