Sixty years ago, American popular science writer Rachel Carson created the shocking “Silent Spring”, using a “tomorrow’s fable” to depict the profound impact of environmental pollution and ecological destruction on the natural world.
Once upon a time, in spring, flowers dotted the green fields; in autumn, foxes barked on the hills, and the deer quietly passed through the fields shrouded in morning mist. But from a certain day, everything began to change: the chorus of crows, thrushes, and doves disappeared. Silence replaced everything.
After 2020, some voices have disappeared from the earth forever.
In December 2020, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) announced an updated version of the Red List of Endangered Species. There are 128,918 species on the list, of which 35,765 are endangered. The most regrettable thing is that 31 species worldwide have been declared extinct. So far, there are 982 species on the list that are extinct or completely extinct in the wild.
What many people don’t know is that the earth is in the sixth mass extinction period of animals and plants. Since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, the current species extinction is the most serious. We have to face a cruel reality: human activities are the main reason for the “sixth mass extinction”. More importantly, there is not much time left for effective action.
Elegy: The Lost Life
Open the updated version of the “Red List of Endangered Species”, and the dense list is revealed. These names stared at me silently. This list is like a cold obituary, using a few phrases to declare the end of the fate or endangerment of the entire population: “EX” means “extinct”, “EW” means “extinct in the wild”, and “CR” means Severely endangered, “EN” stands for endangered…
For most people, these names rarely appear in daily life. But these animals truly live or have lived on the same earth with us, sharing the same blue sky and looking up at the same starry night.
Some animals have swam in the blue South China Sea, some prefer to live on the bottom of the southeastern waters of Australia, some use their gorgeous appearance as a deadly signal of danger, and some hide in the bushes as mimicry.
From fish to amphibians, from insects to mammals, the 31 species declared extinct in 2020 cover various species.
Smooth handfish is one of the few extinct species that will receive widespread media attention in 2020. This unusual fish with bulging eyes and walking on fins is considered by IUCN to be the first modern marine fish to be completely extinct on record.
Like the smooth handfish, the Ogasawara winged bat may have been extinct many years ago. Scientists only discovered this Japanese bat once in the 19th century. IUCN has been labeling it as “insufficient data” from 2006 to 2020, but the latest red list has listed the species as extinct.
Lake Ranau is the second largest lake in the Philippines and the largest lake in Mindanao. It is home to a variety of local fish and invertebrates. Among them, 17 species of freshwater fish face the threat of predator species invasion, overfishing and destructive fishing. Fifteen species are listed as “extinct species”, and the remaining two are listed as “critically endangered (possibly extinct)” species, and are in very dangerous situations.
The ethnic history of the three Mesoamerican frog species will also come to an end in 2020. The Klaugastor curved-lipped frog is a frog in Guatemala and has not appeared since 1978. They have never had a unified name and were not recognized as separate species until 2000. This frog became extinct before the chytrid crisis arrived. Scientists speculate that the development of agriculture at that time destroyed its only habitat.
The other two extinct frogs are the gorgeous poison frog from Panama and the Chiriqui Harlekin frog from Panama and Costa Rica. Rana chytrid has caused a fatal population crisis to frogs in the past 20 years. The globalization of frog trade has accelerated the extinction of frogs caused by chytrid fungus.
In addition to animals, many plants are not immune to extinction. For example, Hawaiian yellow trees have never been discovered since 1927, and their rainforest habitat has been destroyed due to plant invasion, flock grazing, and fires; a South African tree lily plant that has been in existence for more than 200 years It has not been discovered, and is considered to be the earliest extinct species recorded in the country; Australian shrubs and sparse flowers were destroyed by a high degree of urbanization… The extinction of these plants was mostly due to the advancement of human agricultural activities and urbanization. Cause the degradation and destruction of habitats.
Endangered species with “life hanging by a thread”
The significance of the “Red List of Endangered Species” may not lie in retrospection and remembrance. It is more like a live warning, a reminder of the bleak future of more biological populations.
In 2020, the lemur species have reached the point where their lives are hanging by a thread: 33 species of lemurs are critically endangered, and 103 of the 107 surviving species are endangered. The reason behind this is the deforestation and hunting activities in Madagascar.
Due to the intensification of human survival pressure, 13 lemur species have been pushed to a higher endangered category. For example, Victorinox crested lemurs and Bessie yoke lemurs, which were previously listed as endangered species, have recently been listed as critically endangered animals.
The Victorinox crowned lemur is a small gregarious lemur, covered with white pilose, with a long tail, and is good at jumping in the jungle. The Belle’s wispy lemur is a new species discovered in 2000. It is considered to be the smallest primate in the world and is found in humid tropical rainforests. Their forest habitat has been destroyed by logging and farming. The illegal hunting of humans has further aggravated the tragic fate of lemurs.
We set our sights on other parts of Africa. It is estimated that 53% of primate species are threatened with extinction. This includes all 17 species of red colobus-the most threatened monkey genus on the African continent. Primates across the African continent are threatened by illegal hunting and habitat loss.
In the ocean world, the threat of genocide should not be underestimated. For example, the North Atlantic right whale may be only one step away from extinction. At the end of 2018, fewer than 250 mature individuals survived, a decrease of about 15% compared to the total in 2011.
The reason behind it is the entanglement of fishing gear. Between 2012 and 2016, there were 30 man-made incidents that clearly caused the death or serious injury of this cetacean, of which 26 were due to entanglement with fishing gear.
Climate change also seems to be increasing the threat to right whales in the North Atlantic. In summer, warm sea temperatures may push its main prey species to the north, making it into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Here, whales are more likely to be accidentally touched by ships, and they are also very likely to be entangled in crab cages. For the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, this undoubtedly means worsening the situation.
The lost shark, which was officially recorded only last year, has been classified as “critically endangered (possibly extinct).” The last record of this species was in 1934. It has been hunted extensively in the South my country Sea for more than a century, and it is now probably extinct.
The fate of freshwater animals is also bumpy. “Turbo”, the small gray dolphin species found in the Amazon River system, has changed from insufficient data to endangered under the serious threat of fishing gear, river damming and pollution. With the endangerment of the “turbo”, all freshwater dolphin species in the world are now listed as endangered species.
In addition to animals, some proteas are considered vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered species, and three macadamia nuts are threatened with extinction in the wild.
”Caterpillar fungus”, at first hearing this name will feel remote and unfamiliar. But this fungus is actually a well-known traditional Chinese medicine-Cordyceps sinensis. In more than two thousand years of history, this world’s most expensive fungus has been used to treat many diseases. Since the 1990s, people’s demand for fungi has risen sharply, but the channels for obtaining them are very single. Over the past 15 years, the population of Caterpillar fungi has fallen by at least 30% due to overharvesting. This is also the first time that a fungus has appeared among the vulnerable species on the Red List.
Countdown: Race against time
Although the situation of species extinction and endangerment is grim, there are still some positives for nature conservationists in 2020.
From 2003 to 2019, the number of European bison increased from about 1,800 to 6,200; in 2020, blue whales returned to South Georgia; in the wild in Cambodia, the Siamese crocodile, which was once considered extinct, had the number of cubs A new record is set; the British blue butterfly, which has not been seen in 150 years, returns to southwest England…
These signs prove the power of protection. Take the European bison as an example. In the early 20th century, this species only survived in captivity and was reintroduced into the wild in the 1950s. Today, the largest wild populations have been found in Poland, Belarus and Russia, and there are 47 free-range European bison herds.
The change is gratifying, but the risks behind it still cannot be ignored. European bison still relies on ongoing conservation measures, such as moving bison to more desirable open habitats.
I remember that when the article was opened in 2019, people lamented the extinction of the Yangtze River White Sturgeon. But regrets have been staged again and again. Such extinctions are still happening all the time.
Some species have long gone extinct, and finally left a thin record on this extinction list. The protection of endangered organisms is imminent, and actions need to be taken around the world to jointly deal with global threats such as unsustainable fishery production, agricultural land clearing, and species invasion.
Lamenting is meaningless. The extinct creatures can’t hear the belated lament of mankind.