In Brief

Some Endangered Species Actually at Low Risk

polar bear
A young polar bear on the shores of Hudson Bay in Manitoba, Canada in November waiting for the sea ice to re-form. (Image credit: Copyright Andrew Derocher, Univeristy of Alberta.)

Who hasn't seen the iconic global warming image of a sad, skinny polar bear floating on an ice chip, threatened with extinction from habitat loss and the rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem? But at, author Jackson Landers argues that the polar bear is one of five species whose extinction risk is actually a myth.

The Nanook of the North has survived multiple warming cycles in the past 600,000 years, Landers writes, and only eight of its 19 subpopulations are in decline. Other predators that are thriving despite reports of their imminent demise include the Komodo dragon and Southeast Asia's Clouded leopards, Landers said.

On the enormous end of the scale, humpback whales represent a conservation success story, with an estimated 80,000 of the giant beasts swimming the seas, Landers reports. There were probably 125,000 whales before their numbers were decimated due to whaling. Finally, Landers knocks down an urban myth that praying mantises are endangered in the United States. In truth, none of the 20 species of these amazing insects are at risk of extinction.

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Becky Oskin
Contributing Writer
Becky Oskin covers Earth science, climate change and space, as well as general science topics. Becky was a science reporter at Live Science and The Pasadena Star-News; she has freelanced for New Scientist and the American Institute of Physics. She earned a master's degree in geology from Caltech, a bachelor's degree from Washington State University, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz.