Saving the world’s weirdest creatures
Tuesday 16 January 2007
ZSL launches a new programme to protect some of the world’s most bizarre and unusual animals, many of which are being completely ignored by current international conservation efforts.
The programme focuses on the world’s most unusual and threatened animals and is called “EDGE”, standing for Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered.
Dr Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL scientist leading the project, commented, “This is the first global-scale programme specifically developed to focus on these one-of-a-kind and highly threatened animals. We will be working to protect some of the world’s most extraordinary species, including giant venomous shrew-like creatures, matchbox sized bats and egg-laying mammals, all of which are teetering on the EDGE of extinction”
EDGE animals are those with few close relatives and are highly distinct genetically. These animals are also extremely endangered and desperately in need of immediate action to save them from becoming extinct. By mathematically combining a measure of each species’ unique evolutionary history with its threat of extinction, the scientists are able to give species an EDGE value, which identifies species that are highly unique and at significant risk of extinction.
The EDGE team has assessed how much conservation attention each of the top 100 EDGE species is currently receiving and found that over two thirds are receiving little or no conservation attention.
ZSL is starting work to protect ten of the most unusual and threatened species this year, including:
1) Yangtze River dolphin
2) Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna (egg-laying mammal)
3) Hispaniolan solenodon (venomous shrew-like creature)
4) Bactrian camel
5) Pygmy hippopotamus
6) Slender Loris (a shy, nocturnal primate with gigantic eyes)
7) Hirola antelope (antelope known as “four-eye antelope”, as their preorbital glands look like a second set of eyes)
8) Golden-rumped elephant shrew (the size of a small rabbit; can run at speeds of up to 25km/h)
9) Bumblebee bat (possibly the world’s smallest mammal)
10) Long-eared jerboa (mouse-like animals with the largest ear to body ratio of any mammal)
Dr Baillie continued, “It is a tragedy that many EDGE species are being ignored and are slipping silently towards extinction. It is essential that we now focus our energies on highlighting and protecting these remarkable species before it is too late.”
ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, ZSL’s living collections, will also start to use the EDGE system, incorporating it into their assessments of which species to house in their collections. The following top 100 EDGE species are currently held in ZSL’s Living Collections at ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo:
1) Bactrian camel
2) Asian elephant
5) Red panda
6) Pygmy hippopotamus
7) Slender loris
8) Indian rhinoceros
9) Grevy’s zebra
10) Mountain zebra
11) Malagasy giant jumping rat
Commencing on the 25th January 2007, the Zoological Society of London will be showcasing the EDGE programme with a new exhibition at London Zoo. The exhibition will feature information on some of the most unusual and critically endangered EDGE species, as well as the work being done to protect them.