Brazil's Araripe Manakin (Antilophia bokermanni). There are less than 800 of these critically endangered birds left in the wild. They are threatened by habitat destruction due to expansion of agriculture.
Credit: Ciro Albano
Conservation scientists have released a list of the 100 most threatened species in the world, which are likely to go extinct if immediate actions aren't taken, they say.
The list was released today (Sept. 11) in a presentation at the World Conservation Congress in Jeju, South Korea, and compiled by more than 8,000 scientists affiliated with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The 100 most threatened species, from 48 different countries, will be first in line to disappear completely if nothing is done to protect them, according to a release from the Zoological Society of London, whose scientists were involved in producing the list.
One of the threatened species one the list is the pygmy three-toed sloth, which exists only on Escudo Island, off the coast of Panama. At half the size of their mainland cousins, and weighing roughly the same as a newborn baby, pygmy sloths are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world and remain critically endangered. [Image Gallery: 100 Most Threatened Species]
Another animal on the list includes the saola, one of the most threatened mammals in Southeast Asia. Known as the "Asian unicorn" because of its rarity, populations of these antelope may be down to a few tens of individuals today.
Conservationists fear many of the species on the list will be allowed to die out because the species on the list don't provide humans with obvious benefits, a view that conservation groups are trying to counter.
"The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a 'what can nature do for us' approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritized according to the services they provide for people," said Jonathan Baillie, a conservation scientist with the Zoological Society of London, in a statement. "This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet."
But species can be saved if actions are taken, the scientists involved with the list say. Examples include Przewalski's horse and humpback whales, which have been kept around due to aggressive action, according to the release.
"All species have a value to nature and thus in turn to humans," said IUCN scientist Simon Stuart, in the release. "Although the value of some species may not appear obvious at first, all species in fact contribute in their way to the healthy functioning of the planet."