Should we work to save unique animals, over iconic ones?

Right now, most conservation efforts focus on the animals at risk of disappearing most quickly, but biologist Arne Mooers says he has a better idea. The biodiversity professor says we should look at how unique or isolated an animal is, and let that determine our priorities instead.
Look! A Polar bear after a swim! This week we'll hear from a biologist who says we might be better off focussing our conservation efforts on more unique or isolated species. (Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters)

Right now, most conservation efforts focus on endangered species at the most immediate risk of disappearing.

Biologist Arne Mooers says there's a different approach to take.

The Simon Fraser University biodiversity professor says, since there's finite resources for saving threatened species, we need to be deliberate about what we hold on to, and what we let go.

Instead, we could focus on which animals are most biologically unique.

Some threatened species are have close cousins with relatively stable populations. For example, the Polar Bear. While they're majestic and beautiful, they're a lot like Grizzly Bears. In fact, they're so similar to Grizzlies, that they can mate and reproduce with them, creating offspring like the "Pizzly" or "Grolar".

Meanwhile, other species get less attention, like the Pacific Tailed Frog in BC, which is far removed from other species of frog. The males have a tail used for mating, and fertilize the female's eggs internally. That's unlike other frogs, where the males fertilize the eggs after they've been released.

There is debate among biologists about which approach to take to conservation. Mooers acknowledges that the "uniqueness" approach could means some tough choices, like letting the iconic Polar Bear fend for itself, while making sure the slimy Tailed Frog gets our attention.


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