Wildlife scientists urge less focus on endangered species

April 18, 2013 at 6:55 PM
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NEW YORK, April 18 (UPI) -- A paper by U.S. scientists takes the international conservation community to task for ignoring abundant wildlife, treating them as environmental "stepchildren."

The paper by current and recent Wildlife Conservation Society scientists says a focus on endangered species ignores still-abundant wildlife and their importance to ecosystems and humans worldwide.

"Many once-abundant species are currently in decline, yet conservationists and institutions often take notice and action only when they become rare," lead author Kent Redford said.

"It is like practicing medicine only in the emergency room and wondering why patients only increase in number," he said in a release from WCS headquarters in New York Thursday.

The consequences of not addressing and conserving abundance in wildlife populations put at risk the ecosystem services that abundant, not merely present, species provide, the paper's authors wrote.

It is easier in cost and management effort to maintain abundance in wildlife populations than it is to keep once-abundant and now rare species from extinction, they said.

They cited the example of saiga antelope in Central Asia, which have plummeted from more than a million animals to only tens of thousands in recent years.

"If the conservation community had committed to maintain this species abundance rather than belatedly acting on averting its extinction, then this Asian icon would be conserved, and at much less cost," WCS Senior Scientist Joel Berger said.

The authors did applaud the International Union for Conservation of Nature for developing a "Green List" for species, which emphasizes recovery and perhaps emphasis on returning species to abundance and moving away from the sole emphasis on Red Lists of species that fixate on rarity and extinction.

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