Why Should Baby Pandas Get All the Love?Photos of 11 not-so-cute endangered species.
Late last year, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the world's largest independent conservation organization, released "Ten to Watch in 2010", a list of endangered species facing natural and man-made threats around the world. Animals include the polar bear, the tiger, the Magellanic penguin, and the giant panda.
As it turns out, just three of the ten—the blue-fin tuna, the leatherback turtle, and the Javan rhinoceros —fall under the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) category of "Critically Endangered", one step up from "Extinct in Nature." (The IUCN Red List is widely considered to be the standard-bearer for classifying endangered species). So why did the WWF select the critters that they did? Simply put, household names are more likely to open the hearts, and wallets, of enviro-friendly folks. According to the WWF, "Our conservation efforts are directed towards flagship species, iconic animals that provide a focus for raising awareness and stimulating action and funding for broader conservation efforts in our priority places; and footprint-impacted species whose populations are primarily threatened because of unsustainable hunting, logging or fishing." The big and the beautiful always get the most press.
But not all conservationists are on board with such calculated efforts. One British student of zoology, who writes under the pen name "thonoir" on the blog Ninjameys, has undertaken a conservation project looking beyond what he refers to as "charismatic megafauna." His "Endangered Species 2010", an alternative list to the WWF's, showcases species that few people outside of the zoology world have heard of. Thonoir is working his way up the tree of life from fungi to mammals; most recently he wrote about molluscs. While he acknowledges the WWF's need to feature recognizable species in order to carry the most impact, and praises their "Species of the Day" project, he writes that he'd also "like to see some under-appreciated and little-known species creep onto the periphery of the public radar."
This slideshow is a small sampling of not-so-cute endangered species.—Eric Sullivan