Conservation

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) carried out species status assessments in 1996. Over one third (39%) of Insectivora species were placed on the Red List. Of those, 21% were Critically Endangered; 26.5% were Endangered; 40.5% were Vulnerable; 3% were Lower Risk/Near Threatened; 3.5% are Extinct; and 5% were Data Deficient. The majority of these Red-Listed species are from sub-Saharan Africa, south and Southeast Asia, and east Asia.

The reason why so many species worldwide are under threat is simple: human population growth. The major causes for the decline of whole species and genera, according to the IUCN and most conservation groups worldwide, are believed to be human-induced habitat loss, degradation, and fragmentation. Land clearing, logging, slash and burn, increased agriculture, and its widespread use of toxic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides—all of these practices take a toll on the above ground and fossorial insectivores. Pollution of fresh water resources—springs, steams, rivers, ponds, and lakes—as well as clearing of banks, the construction of hydroelectric dams and canals, and the drainage of wetlands are greatly contributing to the reduction in numbers of aquatic species. Introduction of non-native plant and animal species are also a contributing factor to the decline of certain insectivores.

Because so little is known about the great majority of in-sectivores—their behavior, reproductive biology, social organization, migratory movements, and general ecology—it is difficult to identify strategies that could help predict potential threats, so as to design effective conservation plans. There are many specialist groups, however, the most active of which work under the auspices of the IUCN, dedicated to reversing the negative trend affecting the survival of mammals. The Internet allows the members of these groups to share information

A hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) baby learning to forage. (Photo by Animals Animals ©Robert Maier. Reproduced by permission.)

easily with each other and with conservation groups that are in a position to apply the knowledge obtained to studies and projects underway worldwide.

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