Extinction danger for great apes, Hawaiian plants and many more!

By Dave Armstrong - 05 Sep 2016 20:40:0 GMT
Extinction danger for great apes, Hawaiian plants and many more!

The bridled nailtail is a wallaby that is lucky enough to have been conserved in protected areas, unlike many Australian marsupials that have lost their struggles against invasive placental mammals. Wallaby image; Credit: © Fraenata_diverdave

You could believe the Haha plant was just a joke. No, the Hawaiian endemic is Cyanea superba and it can’t have the last laugh because along with 38 other Hawaiians, it is now extinct, soon to be joined by 415 others that we are struggling to conserve. Pigs, goats, rats, slugs and invasive plants don’t belong on islands. They destroy everything in their path as animals and plants there have never evolved defences to stop them. Thats just it – Madagascar, Australia and New Zealand are much larger islands, but the animals and plants still cannot resist IAS (Invasive Alien Species.) Species on small islands just have no chance.

Matt Keir is one of the IUCN plant specialists for Hawaii: Hawaiʻi is an example of nature at its best with spectacular examples of evolution, yet it is facing an uncertain future due to the impact of invasive species - showing how unwittingly, human actions can make nature turn against itself. There are 50 mature flowering Haha, Cyanea remyi plants left and many of the others are going to be maintained in specialised centres, but that answer is hard to swallow and difficult to imagine continuing. Seed Banks in places such as Kew Gardens are another answer, but the plants need to be growing somewhere if possible. If China can provide environment for the giant panda and the Tibetan antelope, Pantholops hodgsonii, (they are now merely Near-Threatened,) then Australian wallabies can improve even more from their Vulnerable status. The species involved is the bridled nailtail, Onchygalea fraenata, which had terrible declines because of invasive species and the loss of its habitat. The answer for Oz was new populations in protected areas, just like the New Zealand policy of using islands for conservation.

The money to help the IUCN maintain assessments will be $10m over the next 5 years. Kew, Arizona State University, BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Conservation International; NatureServe; Sapienza University of Rome; Texas A&M University and the Zoological Society of London provide, but more will be needed.

The money will partly be spent on larger animals of course. Major priority in Africa will be given to Equus quagga(the plains zebra) and the Cephalophus antelopes known as the Bay Duiker, the White-bellied Duiker and the Yellow-backed Duiker. They have been changed in status to Near-Threatened, mainly where they are living outside protected areas. Bushmeat problems affect them, along with gorillas and chimpanzees, which are Endangered and Critically-Endangered now (depending on species and sub-species.)

The great apes, and many other primates are under dire threat. Gorilla beringei beringei, a subspecies of the most threatened gorilla, has increased in numbers slightly, to about 880 individuals, but that is less than its most affected cousin, Gorilla beringei graueri. This sub-species still has 3,800 but is losing this population rapidly, becoming Critically Endangered because of hunting. No ape is safe, it seems, with political, military and human predation threats all causing huge percentage declines in the past 20 years.

The IUCN site for this information is under the titleFour-out-of-six great apes one step away from extinction.