This reality is a stomach turner, but conservation groups can no longer afford to try to protect as many plants and animals as they did in the past. As budgets shrink and environmental stresses grow, politicians continue to prioritize the economy over the environment.
Bottom line: When you can't save them all, you are forced to play god.
Nijhuis describes three ways that scientists and conservation organizations are making these tough decisions:
The Chinese river dolphins lose out in so-called function-first approaches, which favor threatened species with a unique role in nature.
Another strategy, which Nijhuis dubs "evolution first," seeks to preserve genetic diversity, which can help all species to survive in fast-changing environments. Two-humped Bactrian camels and long-beaked echidnas are winners in this game. Gunnison sage grouses are losers; they are too closely related to other grouse species.
The third approach, hotspots, focuses on saving whole ecosystems. It combines elements of the other two, but it still has winners and losers. (So sorry, mangrove forests).