Bizarre animals on the EDGE of extinction
CUTE AND CUDDLY ANIMALS have an easy time when it comes to conservation, while the world’s odder-looking mammals don’t usually get a look in.
According to the top 100 Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species list, released in November, these strange mammals are dwindling most rapidly, yet they have the hardest time attracting conservation funding. In fact, only one third of EDGE animals are receiving any active protection at all.
“There are mammals across the world requiring conservation attention, but EDGE species must be our top priority,” says Dr Craig Turner a conservation biologist with the EDGE project at the Zoological Society of London in the UK. “Variety is truly the spice of life when it comes to the natural world and if we fail to preserve this variety, we are threatening our very own existence.”
Topping the list are three species of long-beaked echidnas, one of which – Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna – is only known from a single specimen found in Indonesia, in 1961. In 2007 the EDGE team came across anecdotal evidence of the echidna; locals who were interviewed said the monotremes still inhabited the Cyclops Mountains in Papua, but no individuals were found.
Other threatened mammals listed include the Chinese pangolin, a dog-sized mammal that has skin which looks more like that of a reptile’s; the saola, dubbed the Asian unicorn, which looks like an antelope adorned with tribal facepaint; and the Malayan tapir, a black-and-white-coloured animal that resembles the appearance of a pig crossed with an anteater.
The top 100 is an update from the same list made in 2007. Sadly, the animal at number one, the Yangtze River dolphin has since become extinct. The Ganges River dolphin, a cousin of the Yangtze dolphin is a new addition to this year’s list.
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