Numerous endangered species in SE Asia face extinction, studies show

Extinction is not primarily due to climate change, the scientists say, but it does contribute to extinction.
A commentary by Dan Southerland
2021.11.03
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Numerous endangered species in SE Asia face extinction, studies show A freshwater Siamese crocodile, a critically endangered species native to southeast Asia, seen at Kaeng Krachan National Park in central Thailand, Jan. 23, 2021.
AFP

A number of endangered animals and plant species in East Asia face extinction unless steps are taken soon to protect them, according to a new study.

The study, published in the journal Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment, states that as many as one in five species around the world now face the danger of extinction.

According to the website Sapiens, Southeast Asia should be the world’s priority for averting imminent species extinctions.

Compared with other regions, Asia has the highest proportion of plant, reptile, bird, and mammal species listed as threatened on the “Red List” produced by the IUCN, or International Union for Conservation of Nature, a Swiss-based international monitoring organization.

The 2010 IUCN Red List includes 2,380 animal species in Asia threatened to vanish forever, from Asian elephants to primates to wild cattle to frogs.

Southeast Asia has the world’s fastest recent habitat-loss rates due largely to a demand for wild species to be used as luxury food, medicine, tonics, and trophy parts. Much of the demand for these items comes from Chinese consumers.

Bumblebee species in East Asia are being threatened by climate change and vegetation change, according to a recent Chinese study.

As many people know, bumblebees are pollinators, which play an important role in agricultural and natural ecosystems. Due to the impact of environmental change, the number of bumblebees has declined sharply in several areas, including Europe and North America.

Protesters hold signs depicting bees during a demonstration called by climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion, on at the Place du Chatelet, Paris, October 7, 2019. Credit: AFP
Protesters hold signs depicting bees during a demonstration called by climate change activist group Extinction Rebellion, on at the Place du Chatelet, Paris, October 7, 2019. Credit: AFP
Bumblebees in Asia

East Asia is a region abundant in bumblebees, but investigations of their condition in the region have been relatively late in coming.

However, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences have now evaluated 29 bumblebee species endemic to East Asia.

The researchers predicted that an estimated 59 to 93 percent of bumblebees in East Asia will experience range loss in 2050 due to climate change and vegetation changes.

By then some three percent of the species are predicted to be critically endangered” with about 10 to 17 percent categorized simply as “endangered.”

The researchers also proposed measures to protect the bumblebees that include improving the grasslands, forests, and farmlands that the bumblebees inhabit.

Mark Green with the U.S.–based Wilson Center recently brought much-needed attention to the researchers’ study.

According to Green, a United Nations report in 2019 “sent shock waves through the conservation community when it stated that more than one million animal and plant species now stand on the brink of extinction.

The good news is that a number of citizens around the world are volunteering to help protect endangered animals.

A pangolin moves in a cage at night at Save Vietnam Wildlife's Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam's  northern province of Ninh Binh, Oct. 21, 2016.  Credit: AFP
A pangolin moves in a cage at night at Save Vietnam Wildlife's Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program in Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam's northern province of Ninh Binh, Oct. 21, 2016. Credit: AFP
Poaching and habitat loss

One example can be found in Vietnam where a critically endangered species of monkey has quadrupled in numbers under the protection of the Van Long Nature Reserve, inspiring hope for conservationists.

In the spring of this year, The Christian Science Monitor Weekly reported that when German primatologist Tilo Nadler first visited Vietnam in the early 1990s, he found only 50 of the Delacours langurs.

The Monitor’s main source for its story is the environmental website Mongabay.

Nadler teamed up with local communities to establish the Van Long Nature Reserve in 2001, and most of the country’s langurs, estimated to number between 235 and 275, live there today.

Outside the reserve, the species is still under pressure from poaching and habitat loss, but Van Long’s success gives conservationists a roadmap for the langurs’ future.

Nadler hopes to open a second reserve in 2021 and 2022 in an area north of Van Long where some 30 other langurs currently live and he wants to relocated primates from unprotected  areas to Trang An, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In another positive development, USAID is working with the Vietnamese government to combat wildlife trafficking by strengthening policies and law enforcement.

But persistent challenges to countering the illegal wildlife trade include conflicting administrative regulations and the limited capacity of Vietnam’s legal enforcement force.

Meanwhile, Indonesia, the largest and most populous nation in Southeast Asia, has announced a number of steps to halt illegal wildlife trafficking. But here again the problem is a limited enforcement capacity as well as corruption in the government system.

Scientists say that in the end, in Indonesia and elsewhere, “bio-sensitive urban development” will be required for the world to slow the rate of animal and plant species extinction

Extinction is not primarily due to climate change, the scientists say, although climate change does contribute to extinction. It is mostly human agricultural development and other activities, they say, that disrupt the eco-system.

Dan Southerland is RFA's founding Executive Editor.

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