After decades of researching the impact that humans are having on animal and plant species around the world, Chris Thomas has a simple message: Cheer up. Yes, we’ve wiped out woolly mammoths and ground sloths, and are finishing off black rhinos and Siberian tigers, but the doom is not all gloom. Myriad species, thanks in large part to humans who inadvertently transport them around the world, have blossomed in new regions, mated with like species and formed new hybrids that have themselves gone forth and prospered. We’re talking mammals, birds, trees, insects, microbes—all your flora and fauna. “Virtually all countries and islands in the world have experienced substantial increases in the numbers of species that can be found in and on them,” writes Thomas in his new book, Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction.
Brent Stirton won the award for his image Memorial to a Species, taken at a game reserve in South Africa.
The sixth mass extinction of global wildlife already under way is seriously threatening the world’s food supplies, according to experts.
There are tens of thousands of wild or rarely cultivated species that could provide a richly varied range of nutritious foods, resistant to disease and tolerant of the changing environment. But the destruction of wild areas, pollution and overhunting has started a mass extinction of species on Earth. The focus to date has been on wild animals – half of which have been lost in the last 40 years – but the new report reveals that the same pressures are endangering humanity’s food supply, with at least 1,000 cultivated species already endangered.
The totoaba, which is itself highly endangered, is caught for its swim bladders which are smuggled to China for sale on the black market. Undercover investigators found the swim bladders, called maws, for sale in Shantou in Guandong province, at an average price of $20,000 per kilogram. The cost has led to the maws being dubbed “aquatic cocaine”.
One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. That is the stark view of the world’s leading biologists, ecologists and economists who will gather to determine the social and economic changes needed to save the planet’s biosphere.
Not only is the Hainan gibbon (or Nomascus hainanus) the world’s rarest ape and rarest primate, it’s one of the rarest mammals of all. The entire species now consists of a single population of around 25 individuals, which separates into smaller social groups. The animals are restricted to just two square kilometres of remnant rainforest in Bawangling National Nature Reserve on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
More than half of the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises are now threatened with extinction as agriculture and industrial activities destroy forest habitats and the animals’ populations are hit by hunting and trade.
Climate change has already led to the vanishing of some bird species in parts of England, where intensively farmed land gives them no room to adapt to warming temperatures. The revelation, in a new scientific study, contradicts previous suggestions that birds are tracking global warming by shifting their ranges.
Canada’s Hudson Bay is as ice-free in November as on a summer’s day and polar bears could be extinct here by mid-century. If the bears are in trouble, so are we.