The Scope of The Endangered Species Crisis

sun_bear12 June 2014 | Interview by Craig KasnoffI left off in my last journal exploring the question ‘How Many Species Are Endangered.’ And of course to find that out, you need to know how many species there are on Earth, and what percentage of these are in fact endangered species.

In my December 7, 2011 post I wrote about a recent article published in PLoS Biology which tries to address this question. The authors of the article estimate there 8.7 million species on the planet (plus or minus 1.3 million).

However, the article does not address the question of how many of these species are endangered species.

In my November 21, 2011 post I wrote about IUCN, an organization that does try to address this question.

The IUCN is considered to be the world’s oldest and largest global environmental network with more than 1,000 government and NGO member organizations, and almost 11,000 volunteer scientists in more than 160 countries. And the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is widely recognized as the most comprehensive, objective global approach for evaluating the conservation status of plant and animal species.

However, according to the IUCN, the number of species (both plant and animal) they have reviewed is around 61,900. And the status for the species they have reviewed is troubling (upwards towards 25% of mammals are at risk of extinction).

And admirable as the IUCN’s efforts are, it still leaves a gaping hole in understanding what the status is of the other 99% of the species that inhabit Earth. In other words, it makes it quite difficult (impossible?) to answer the question “How Many Species Are Endangered?”

And answering this question is not just a number game. Or perhaps it is. Because saving a species from extinction ultimately comes down to one very important number. And that is the ‘cost’ of saving it.

In my ‘a Tiger Journal’ I am exploring how the Global Tiger Recovery Network is going about it’s effort to save tigers from extinction in the wild. And the cost is amazing (in the hundreds of millions of dollars).

And this is just for ‘one’ species (six sub-species) of animal.

The reason I started my journals off with the question of ‘How Many Species Are Endangered’ was in an effort to understand the ‘scope’ of the issue of endangered species. And the ‘scope’ of the issue is directly related to the ‘number’ of endangered species and the ‘cost’ of saving each one.

And when you start looking at the ‘numbers’ and the ‘cost’, you start to realize what a daunting issue and task it is, and what a daunting task it will be to save endangered species.

But it is important, at least to those species facing extinction, that the task is undertaken.


Find organizations saving endangered species at Saving Endangered Species.


Bagheera is Produced by Endangered Species Journalist Craig Kasnoff

to Promote the Plight of Endangered Species and the Efforts to Save Them.