|THE PLIGHT OF ENDANGERED SPECIES
There are now 41,415 species on the IUCN Red List, and 16,306 of them are endangered species threatened with extinction. This is up from 16,118 last year. This includes both endangered animals and endangered plants.
The species endangered include one in four mammals, one in eight birds, one third of all amphibians and 70% of the world’s assessed plants on the 2007 IUCN Red List are in jeopardy of extinction. The total number of extinct species has reached 785 and a further 65 are only found in captivity or in cultivation. In the last 500 years, human activity has forced over 800 species into extinction.
The current rate of extinction appears to be hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of times higher than the background rate. It is difficult to be precise because most of the endangered species which are becoming disappearing species have never been identified by scientists.
Extinctions are a natural part of evolutionary processes, but through most of the history of life on Earth, biological diversity has been increasing.
Periodically, however, major changes in the conditions on Earth have caused the collapse of living systems, and large percentages of species a have become extinct. These species will never return. It takes millions of years for life forms to diversify again.
The current extinction crisis is unique, in that the loss of biodiversity is occurring very rapidly, and the causes of the crisis are the activities of a single species: human beings. Some scientists believe the current crisis began when humans and their domestic animals first began to colonize the various parts of the globe.
Others believe it began around 1600, when human population growth exploded, and the level of per capita resource consumption began to rise dramatically in some parts of the world.
Of the species that are best known, the so-called "higher animals," more than one percent have become extinct in the last 400 years and the overwhelming majority of these extinctions are anthropogenic. Many more species are becoming endangered species and therefore in danger of becoming extinct if we do not act quickly to conserve all of them.