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Why South-east Asia should be the world’s priority for averting imminent species extinctions, and a call to join a developing cross-institutional programme to tackle this urgent issue

By J. W. Duckworth, G. Batters, J. L. Belant, E. L. Bennett, J. Brunner, J. Burton, D. W. S. Challender, V. Cowling, N. Duplaix, J. D. Harris, S. Hedges, B. Long, S. P. Mahood, P. J. K. McGowan, W. J. McShea, W. L. R. Oliver, S. Perkin, B. M. Rawson, C. R. Shepherd, S. N. Stuart, B. K. Talukdar, P. P. van Dijk, J-C. Vié, J. L. Walston, T. Whitten and R. Wirth


Global species loss during the present human-caused mass-extinction far exceeds background rates and is detrimental to human existence. Across the globe, vertebrate extinction risks are highest in South-east Asia. This region has among the world’s fastest recent habitat-loss rates. More of a determinant to the conservation status of many vertebrates has been a huge explosion in South-east and East Asian trade demand, and thus harvest rates, for wild species for luxury food, medicine, tonics, horns and other trophy parts, and captive animals. The region has little tradition of effectively managed protected areas. Consequently, many South-east Asian species will become extinct in the near future if current trends continue. An emerging programme coordinated by IUCN SSC on behalf of its member organisations is being developed to assist implementing agencies and their partners minimise the impending extinctions among South-east Asian non-marine vertebrates. The programme is neither a direct implementing body nor a direct donor, but is a supporter using the synergistic strength of its constituent organisations and IUCN’s intergovernmental status to ameliorate perennial challenges to these species’ conservation. Its two main components are (1) to identify species at greatest risk of extinction, specify their conservation needs and support conservation efforts to reduce this risk; and (2) to build, in selected ways, an enabling environment for species-specific interventions. To address the first component, the programme will: develop and maintain a priority species list with associated priority sites necessary to reduce extinction; determine what conservation mechanisms are already in place (many species presently have none), and encourage additional actions as warranted; and serve as a clearinghouse for information and skills exchange. To address the second component, the programme will: work with existing and new donors to prioritise these species and develop emergency and long-term conservation funding mechanisms for them; encourage the integration of priority species into relevant conservation plans; serve as a liaison body to support dialogue among relevant parties in improving species’ conservation (e.g. governmental and non-governmental site- and higher-level implementing agencies, and donors); support the functionality of information/expertise-based bodies such as IUCN SSC specialist groups; serve as a mechanism to link recommended conservation strategies with appropriate ‘stakeholders’; and increase public awareness of the severity of this extinction crisis. By October 2012, working species and site lists will be available and a stakeholder meeting will have discussed the working mechanics of the programme. Any highly collaborative effort of this magnitude faces stiff challenges. It must serve only as a catalyst, recognising and supporting existing efforts, and encouraging action for species presently not receiving it. All parties must recognise that not all conservation efforts will be successful: extinction potential of high-risk species is, by definition, not negligible. Many of the most-threatened South-east Asian species have high market value, or are bycatch of those which do, meaning that powerful vested interests oppose their conservation. Considerably increased funding, primarily to implementing agencies, for highly-threatened species in South-east Asia is required. Funding to run the programme must not compete with the implementing agencies’ existing sources. Human capacity is also limiting outcomes, and how to effect an appropriate increase in capable and committed personnel to use increased funding effectively remains unclear. Finally, the philosophy of the programme must be recognised by all as only part of overall species conservation in South-East Asia

Topics: extinction risk, inter-agency collaboration, overharvest, site-based conservation, South-east Asia, species, Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering, TD1-1066
Publisher: Institut Veolia Environnement
Year: 2012
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