Life on Earth is in the throes of a new wave of mass extinction, unlike anything since the demise of the dinosaurs. In the last 500 years, 844 species – like thepassenger pigeon, auk, thylacine, and quagga – are known to have died out, and up to 16,000 others are now known to be threatened. Two thirds of turtles could be gone by the 2025, great apes have recently declined by over 50% in parts of Africa,half of marsupials and one in three amphibians are in jeopardy, and a staggering 40% of Asia’s plants and animals could soon be lost.
But this may only be a fraction of the true number facing extinction. Though only 1.5 million species have been described, there could be between 5 to 30 million in total. Of these, some experts predict that one could be falling extinct every 20 minutes – or 27,000 a year.
Conservationists argue that humans have an ethical obligation to protect other species, that diversity and natural beauty are highly prized by mankind, and that biodiversity is a vital resource: we rely on ecosystems to provide food, oxygen and natural resources, recycle wastes and fertilise soils for agriculture. The total value of services provided to man by nature has been estimated at $33 trillion annually.