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Species Dying Outside Parks

Protected Areas Don't Protect Many Endangered Species, Study Finds

The good news is that more than a tenth of the Earth's land surface is now a designated safe haven for wildlife, exceeding international targets. But the bad news, according to a new study, is that many of the world's most threatened species don't actually live in those areas.

Having assessed 11,633 species of amphibians, birds, mammals, and turtles, the scientists identified more than 300 critically endangered animals living wholly outside protected areas. Left unprotected, these species face an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.

In addition, 237 endangered and 267 vulnerable animals were also found to be completely unprotected in any part of their ranges. The findings appear in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature.

That something like this would be the case seems like a no-brainer. It doesn't even depend on choosing areas of disproportionately low inherent biodiversity. Species become endangered because of human interference with them or with their habitat. Protected areas are established in places where human interference has been lowest. Thus the species that are least endangered are most likely to find themselves inside protected areas.

This is yet another example of the need to get away from the land for humans vs. land for nature dichotomy. Certainly there's a place for some "wilderness" and for some urban sacrifice zones. But over most of the landscape, in-situ biodiversity and ecosystem conservation is necessary. Species shouldn't need to live in a park to survive.


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