The 100 most threatened species. Are they priceless or worthless?
Jeju Island, Republic of Korea, 11 September 2012 (IUCN) — Tarzan’s Chameleon, Spoon-billed Sandpiper and Pygmy Three-toed Sloth have all topped a new list of the species closest
to extinction released today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and IUCN, the International Union for
Conservation of Nature.
For the first time ever, more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have come
together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. But conservationists fear
they’ll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.
"The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach,
where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation.“This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right
to drive them to extinction?”
The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, was presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea today. The publication hopes to push the
conservation of 'worthless' creatures up the agenda that is set by NGOs from around the globe.
“All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back,” says Ellen Butcher, ZSL, co-author of the report. “However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to
support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist.”
Their declines have mainly been caused by humans, but in almost all cases scientists believe their extinction can still
be avoided if conservation efforts are specifically focused. Conservation actions deliver results with many species such
as Przewalski's Horse (Equus ferus) and Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) have being saved from extinction.
The 100 species, from 48 different countries are first in line to disappear completely if nothing is done to protect
them. The pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) is one of the animals facing a bleak future. Escudo Island, 17km off the coast of Panama, is the only place in the
world where these tiny sloths are found. At half the size of their mainland cousins, and weighing roughly the same as a
newborn baby, pygmy sloths are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world and remain Critically Endangered.
Similarly, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is one of the most threatened mammals in Southeast Asia. Known as the Asian unicorn because of its rarity, the
population of these antelope may be down to few tens of individuals today. In the UK, a small area in Wales is the only
place in the world where the brightly coloured willow blister (Cryptomyces maximus) is found. Populations of the spore-shooting fungi are currently in decline, and a single catastrophic event could
cause their total destruction.
“If we believe these species are priceless it is time for the conservation community, government and industry to step up
to the plate and show future generations that we value all life,’’ adds Professor Baillie
Whilst monetising nature remains a worthwhile necessity for conservationists, the wider value of species on the brink of
extinction should not be disregarded, the report states.
“All species have a value to nature and thus in turn to humans,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair IUCN Species Survival Commission. “Although the value of some species may not appear obvious at first, all species in fact contribute in their way to
the healthy functioning of the planet.”
SOS – Save Our Species, is a global partnership initiated by leading conservation organizations aimed at mobilizing new
sources of funding for threatened species, their habitats and the people depending on them. By joining SOS, governments,
foundations, companies, wealthy individuals can join forces and ensure that species featured in this book prosper again.
ZSL and IUCN will be showcasing ‘Priceless or Worthless?’ at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea on 11th September 2012.
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IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing
environment and development challenges. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with
more than 1,200 government and NGO members and almost 11,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries.
IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors
around the world. www.iucn.org
Official Congress hashtag: #IUCN2012
Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity: the key role is the conservation of animals and
their habitats. The Society runs ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, carries out scientific research in the Institute
of Zoology and is actively involved in field conservation in over 50 countries worldwide. For further information please
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ (or The IUCN Red List) is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of plant
and animal species. It is based on an objective system for assessing the risk of extinction of a species.
Species are assigned to one of eight categories of threat based on whether they meet criteria linked to population
trend, population size and structure and geographic range. Species listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered or
Vulnerable are collectively described as ‘Threatened’.
The IUCN Red List is not just a register of names and associated threat categories. It is a rich compendium of
information on the threats to the species, their ecological requirements, where they live, and information on
conservation actions that can be used to reduce or prevent extinctions.
The IUCN Red List is a joint effort between IUCN and its Species Survival Commission, working with its Red List partners
BirdLife International; Botanic Gardens Conservation International; Conservation International; NatureServe; Royal
Botanic Gardens, Kew; Sapienza University of Rome; Texas A University; Wildscreen; and Zoological Society of London. www.iucnredlist.org
SOS (Save Our Species) is a global initiative whose objective is to conserve threatened species and their habitats,
following priorities identified by the world leading experts in wildlife conservation. Founded by IUCN, the World Bank
and the GEF (Global Environment Facility), SOS offers unmatched species expertise and makes grants to the conservation
community. The initiative represents an engaging platform for the private sector, offering tangible on-the-ground
results from a diverse portfolio of projects. Nokia is the first business partner and SOS is currently looking for more
companies across industries to join the initiative and assist in explaining the urgency to protect