Why some animals may go extinct, despite protected status





More species of animals in danger of extinction are getting protected status. This helps but is no guarantee of survival, as countries fail to take sufficient action and as animals and plants perish faster than ever before.



 
By Anne-Sophie Galli, Saturday was a good day for Asian elephants and oceanic white-tip sharks. 
The elephants have lost population for decades, hunted by humans for the ivory in their tusks. The sharks are killed for their fins, a beloved soup ingredient in parts of Asia; they can cost up to 80 euros (87 dollars) per kilogram, organization Ocean Care says.
Both species are in danger of extinction. 
But on Saturday they were granted the highest level of protection at the 13th Conference of the UN Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) in Gandhinagar, India.
The 130 signatory countries now will ban the killing of these and other species added to the list. 
Ralf Sonntag, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), is happy about the decision, but he also warns that even with this protection status, the survival of these elephants and sharks is not guaranteed.
Animals and plants are dying out more quickly than ever before. A UN report from 2019 said that 1 million species are in danger of extinction, and humans are largely responsible for this.
A new CMS analysis shows that 73 per cent of animal species given the highest level of protected status still face a continued population decline.
Birds and sharks are particularly vulnerable and one species on the CMS list, the shark-like Chinese swordfish, is now considered extinct. 
One reason for the continued decline is that some countries do not adhere to the strict regulations they commit to.
For the most protected sharks, less than one-third of CMS member countries fully implement the protection mechanisms, IFAW says.
WWF conservation expert Arnulf Koehncke also says that economic interests often take priority for large fishing nations.
And a number of countries don’t join in on such agreements. The 130 CMS member countries include almost all European and South American countries and most of Africa, but not the United States, China, Russia or Japan.
Sometimes animals make it onto the list too late, when their numbers are already dwindling and habitats have shrunk, because of political resistance.
That applies in particular to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which forbids international trade in certain species, Sonntag says.
Habitat loss is the main threat to most animal and plant species, according to the WWF, followed by climate change and illegal trade.
For the majority of threatened species, there are no protective measures from CMS or CITES at all, Sonntag says. And many species in tropical rainforests or the deep sea, for example, might disappear before humans ever even get to know about them. 
Increased species decline will have long-term effects on humans. If there are fewer insects to pollinate plants, fruit harvests will be smaller. Continued pollution of the oceans affects the livelihoods of fishermen. 
Representatives at the CMS conference in India also discussed measures to reduce the impact of human activities on migratory animals.
Land routes could be made easier to cross by building fences in such a way that animals can slip through, or wide bridges could be built for animals to cross roads and railways.
Because some animals are disturbed by artificial light, which increasingly illuminates the night sky, animal welfare activists also called for fewer or dimmer street lights in some places.
Along with the Asian elephant and the oceanic white-tip sharks, CMS added jaguars and multiple species of birds to the highest protective category.
Several additional species were added the second highest list, which calls on countries to cooperate more closely to protect the animals, birds and plants.

Sunday, February 23rd 2020
By Anne-Sophie Galli,
           


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