November 12, 2010
“When we think of extinction, we refer to dinosaurs and dodos. We don’t digest the concept of extinction in present day," said television host and conservationist Jeff Corwin, during a talk at Duke on Thursday.
He was here to talk about the state of conservation of natural resources in the 21st century.
“The rate of extinction right now is almost ten thousand times the natural extinction rate,” Corwin said. The extinction today is remarkably different from extinctions of the past in terms of causes and character. He attributes habitat loss, climate change, medicinal trade and commercialization as some major factors that are expediting the process of extinction of species today.
“We lose one species every twenty minutes. If you add up, we would have lost 30-40% of our planet’s life halfway through this century.”
He shared some startling real-life stories of disappearance of species during his expeditions.
“The Panamanian Golden Frog is no longer the national symbol for Panama. This is because sadly, they are vanishing at a fast pace. We were able to find the last one surviving in the wild.”
He added that Sumatra is projected to lose all its forests in the next ten years. This does not just affect Sumatra’s environment and wildlife, but also affects people throughout the world.
“One out of every ten everyday products that you use has palm oil in it. Sumatran forests are the biggest source of palm oil in the world, and if the forests are destroyed, our palm oil will be lost.”
Currently, the group of animals that are most impacted by extinction are amphibians. They have survived for almost 350 million years, but they are becoming endangered or extinct at a terrible rate.
Corwin still has hope, however, citing the example of the widespread conservation efforts to protect the bald eagle.
“In the 1970s, you could hardly see any bald eagles. But through extensive efforts they were conserved and delisted from the endangered species list. And now we can see them everywhere.”
Jeff Corwin’s most recent book is called 100 Heartbeats: The Race to Save Earth’s Most Endangered Species. .
Tags: Talk, Climate, Environment, Sustainability
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