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Posts Tagged ‘endangered species’

I’ve been catching up today on the BBC’s latest documentary series ‘Madagascar’ on iplayer. As the name suggests, David Attenborough is exploring the island of Madagascar in a three-part series.

As usual with the BBC the episode is full of beautiful photography with sweeping vistas and rare species. 80% of Madagascar’s plant and animal species are endemic – meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world – including the 80 species of lemur inhabiting Madagascar’s various ecosystems, and some really weird and wonderful looking bugs and reptiles such as the pygmy chameleon who is the world’s smallest reptile and is about the size of a passing ant.

I also always enjoy the BBC’s ‘behind the scenes’ sections that explain how the wildlife photographers got their footage – it’s incredible the lengths these men and women go to, and what they will put themselves through, to get a 30 seconds recording of a rare animal performing some behaviour never previously seen.

Highly recommended series – watch it if you can.

BBC2 – Madagascar

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The New York Times website has a slideshow of species recently lost to extinction, or currently hanging on by a thread. I’d recommend having a look, although it makes for very depressing reading.

There are continual arguments about why we should bother to save animals that are on the verge of extinction – or why we should care if a species does go extinct. My personal view, for what it’s worth, is that I find animals inherently beautiful (e.g. the golden toad) and/or interesting (who knew there was a snail that used to give birth to live baby snails [which is what ‘viviparous’ means]?!) and it is absolutely tragic that no one will see a golden toad alive ever again. From a more selfish, human-centric point of view, many animal and plant species could provide us with medical help (e.g. this amazing frog – now extinct). Finally, although extinctions have always happened naturally, the current rate at which species are disappearing is far higher than the usual background rate of extinction (I’ll look for some refs to back this up, but it is published data) – and, far too often, it is human-related effects, such as overhunting, deforestation, the building of dams, or the introduction of invasive species to an ecosystem, that is to blame for a species’ demise. Frankly, what right does any of us have to wipe out a complete species; what gives another species any less right to live on this planet than a human?

Further Information

Strange Behaviours: lost and gone forever
Action BioScience: the sixth extinction

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This week the BBC website has focussed on 10 endangered UK animal and lichen species that have been given English common (ie non-Latin) names, that were suggesed by the British public in an open competition. My favourite has to be the ‘blue pepper pot beetle’, which is a fantastically appropriate name – and rather more catchy than it’s previous single moniker ‘Cryptocephalus punctiger’. Have a look at the beautiful photos at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10666353

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