This article is from the In-Depth Report Earth Day 2012: Strategies for a Green Planet
60-Second Earth

Maul of the Wild: Sixth Extinction Wipes out Animals Worldwide

Extinction juggernaut races across the globe


[Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast.]

The vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise, lives in Mexico's Gulf of California. Or rather, only about 200 do.  Most have been lost to fishing lines.   

The Hainan gibbon once ruled its Chinese island. Now, thanks to deforestation, just 29 remain.

These are examples of mammals at risk. An exhaustive survey of the 5,487 identified species of mammals—which includes us—reveals that one in four are dying out.

From amphibians to corals, the planet’s animals are disappearing, mowed under by increasing cropland, felled forests and polluted oceans.

It’s been dubbed the sixth extinction because it may be the sixth time that the Earth has experienced a mass loss of species.  And it’s the subject of the International Union for Conservation of Nature conference happening this week.

But the news isn't all grim. The Hainan gibbon survives because of concerted work to save it. And the black-footed ferret of North America is reconquering its native range with the help of the U.S. government.

Such focused conservation efforts—and cash—are needed to save our animals.

If the loss of one quarter of our economy provokes the mother of all financial bailouts, perhaps the loss of one quarter of our closest relatives merits the same action.

—David Biello


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