14 April 2009

Rare, threatened, or endangered?

I was listening to an interview with Sarah Pryke on The Science Show. She works with beautiful Gouldian finches (a gallery of them is here). It came up in the conversation that she has about 2,000 of these birds. She estimates that this may well be equal to the number of these birds left in the wild. Which is one of those astonishing thoughts. We forget how many species have most, if not all, of their populations essentially reliant on humans keeping them.

What do you call an animal with no known original wild population? “Extirpated”? No, that’s not quite right. “Extinct in the wild”? That assumes that there is an identified wild population. Regardless, an organism that had known no endemic territory left would be surely be worthy of a conservation effort, wouldn’t it?

Of course, Marmorkrebs fall into such category. We don’t know if they have a home besides our aquaria, or whether it’s under threat or how many Marmorkrebs there might be.

I’ve written a fair amount about Marmorkrebs’ potential to be an invasive species. And while they’ve been introduced into the wild, in Madagascar and elsewhere, but it is far too early to tell what the outcome there will be. If anything, there should probably be some efforts to try to control them in places like Madagascar, because they so obviously don’t belong there.

Nevertheless, it is worth considering the idea that Marmorkrebs might actually be rare, in the global sense. Unless we find a wild population – and there are some reasons to suspect that one might not exist – their future might depend on humans.

And being in that situation has rarely worked out well for the organisms concerned.

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