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Is the Next Mass Extinction Already Here?
Why Pandas Suck at Being Panda
Some scientists say that we're currently in the middle of the Earth's 6th mass extinction. A study published in the journal Science Advances found that animals are going extinct one-hundred times faster than they normally do. A similar study published by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London estimates that nearly half of all wildlife on Earth has disappeared in the last 40 years. The scientific consensus is that, unlike the previous five mass extinctions, is one is due to humans. Certain so-called "charismatic megafauna", like lions, polar bears, and whales, seem to get conservational priority. They're usually animals that capture human interest because they're larger and cuter. But they do need our help nonetheless: larger animals may be at more of a risk from climate change.
Some worry they soak up all the conservational limelight, so to speak, leaving little funds or attention for other species that might need some saving too but don't look like giant Teddy bears. But on the other hand, mega-fans of these megafauna say that saving them might help other species too, and here's why: a recent study published in the journal Conservation Biology found that saving pandas won't leave other endangered species behind. The researchers focused on biodiverse hotspots, which are areas where there was a greater number of different kinds of species: they found that 96 percent of the panda's range overlaps with areas identified as the most important "hot spots" on Earth. Some of the species--14 mammal, 20 bird, and 82 amphibian species--were also vulnerable. All these species are now sheltered under the protective umbrella of the giant panda, so in this case pandas have become an "umbrella species". By protecting pandas and their environments, it also helps the other vulnerable animals who live there too.
Sixth mass extinction is here: Humanity's existence threatened (Science Daily)
"Biologists have used highly conservative estimates to prove that species are disappearing faster than at any time since the dinosaurs' demise."
11 Animals We May Allow To Go Extinct Because They're Not Cute And Fuzzy (Huffington Post)
"Although there are mathematical models that could be used to determine return on investment in any particular species, at the end of the day what we decide to save really is very arbitrary -- it's much more often done for emotional or psychological or national reasons."
Smithsonian National Zoo