The Saola, known as the "Asian Unicorn" due to its rarity. (Photo : WWF)
The Zoological Society of London (ZSL), in conjunction with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) unveiled today a list compiled of the top 100 most endangered species in the world, as part of a report called "Priceless or Worthless?" that was presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Korea.
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The list was compiled by over 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission and identifies the most threatened animals, plants and fungi in existence throughout the world today. The ZSL notes that conservationists fear these species will be allowed to die out because most don't provide humans with obvious, tangible benefits.
"All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If they vanish, no amount of money can bring them back," Dr. Ellen Butcher of the ZSL and co-author of the report said in a statement. "However, if we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival. But this requires society to support the moral and ethical position that all species have an inherent right to exist."
The 100 species are from a total of 48 different countries and face a grave threat of extinction in the not-too-distant future if no protection measures are taken.
The creation and publication of the top 100 list last received the backing of British royalty. His Highness, the Duke of Cambridge showed support for the list and remarked, "This book does not merely tell us which species are most endangered, it shows us how we can save them. It challenges us to commit to safeguarding our priceless natural heritage for future generations."
Among the species considered critically endangered are the Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth, the Saola and the Willow Blister.
The Pygmy Three-Toed Sloth are found only on Escuda Island, off the coast of Panama. Weighing approximately the same as a newborn baby, these are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world. The Saola, known as the Asian Unicorn because of its rarity, is one of the most endangered animals in southeast Asia. It is estimated that the population of these antelopes are down to the few tens today. The brightly-colored Willow Blister, found only in Wales, is a spore-shooting fungi and could face total extinction with "one catastrophic event," according to the ZSL.
The report notes that the wider value of these species, and all of the speces on the top 100 list should not be disregarded.
"All species have a value to nature and thus in turn to humans," Dr. Simon Stuart, Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission said in a statement. "Although the value of some species may not appear obvious at first, all species in fact contribute in their way to the healthy functioning of the planet."