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Priceless or Worthless?

By on September 11, 2012 in EDGE Updates

High ranking EDGE species, Attenborough’s echidna, the Luristan newt and the pygmy three-toed sloth, have topped a new list of the species closest to extinction released today by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Luristan Newt
The Luristan newt is one of the 100 most threatened species on the planet

For the first time ever, more than 8,000 scientists from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (IUCN SSC) have come together to identify 100 of the most threatened animals, plants and fungi on the planet. But conservationists fear they’ll be allowed to die out because none of these species provide humans with obvious benefits.

“The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a ‘what can nature do for us’ approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritised according to the services they provide for people,” says Professor Jonathan Baillie, ZSL’s Director of Conservation and one of the founders of the EDGE of Existence programme. “This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet. We have an important moral and ethical decision to make: Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”

Priceless or Worthless
Are we morally obliged to save threatened species from extinction?


The report, called Priceless or Worthless?, was presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea today. The publication hopes to push the conservation of ‘worthless’ creatures up the agenda that is set by NGOs from around the globe. See Professor Baillie introduce the book here.

The 100 species, from 48 different countries are all threatened by human actions, and are the first in line to disappear completely if nothing is done to protect them. We at EDGE believe they can be saved, if only society chooses to value them enough. After all, conservation actions have brought many species back from the brink, including Przewalski’s horse (Equus ferus) and the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

EDGE species feature prominently in the list, providing even more impetus for targeted conservation action. 21% of the species highlighted rank highly on the EDGE mammals and amphibians lists, meaning that a great deal of unique evolutionary history is at risk of being lost forever.

Pygmy three-toed sloth
The global population of pygmy sloths may be fewer than 100


The pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus) is one of the animals facing a bleak future. Escudo Island, 17km off the coast of Panama, is the only place in the world where these tiny sloths are found. At half the size of their mainland cousins, and weighing roughly the same as a newborn baby, pygmy sloths are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world and remain Critically Endangered.

The discovery of the Saola in 1992 is considered to be the greatest animal find of recent times.


Similarly, the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) is one of the most threatened mammals in Southeast Asia. Known as the Asian unicorn because of its rarity, the population of these antelope may be down to few tens of individuals today.

“All species have a value to nature and thus in turn to humans,” says Dr Simon Stuart, Chair IUCN Species Survival Commission. “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.”

SOS – Save Our Species, is a global partnership initiated by leading conservation organizations aimed at mobilizing new sources of funding for threatened species, their habitats and the people depending on them. By joining SOS, governments, foundations, companies, wealthy individuals can join forces and ensure that species featured in this book prosper again.

View the launch of Priceless or Worthless? here