Creatures in danger of being wiped out because man has no use for them

The spoon-billed sandpiper, three-toed sloth and a long-beaked echidna named after Sir David Attenborough are among the 100 most endangered species in the world, according to a new study.

The list of at-risk species has been published as conservationists warn that rare mammals, plants and fungi are being sacrificed as their habitats are appropriated for human use.

More than 8000 scientists from the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission helped compile the list of species closest to extinction, which was published by the Zoological Society of London.

Conservationists fear the species in 48 countries may die out because they don't offer obvious benefits to humans.


The list is headed by the "weird and wonderful" spoon-billed sandpiper which breeds in Russia and migrates to Bangladesh and Burma. There are just 100 breeding pairs of the birds left in the wild with that number declining by a quarter annually.

There are also just 500 pygmy three-toed sloths left on the uninhabited Isla Escudo de Veraguas, 16km off the coast of Panama. They are half the size of sloths found on the mainland and are the smallest and slowest sloths in the world. But their numbers are declining with fishermen and lobster divers "opportunistically" hunting the small animals, the report said.

Within Britain, the brightly-coloured Willow Blister fungus which grows only on trees in Pembrokeshire is listed as being critically at risk of extinction due to "limited availability of habitat". The report warns that a single "catastrophic event" could cause its total destruction.

Zaglossus attenboroughi, or Attenborough's echidna, named after the eminent naturalist and BBC wildlife expert, is one of just five surviving species of monotreme, ancient egg-laying mammals found in Australia and New Guinea 160 million years ago. Today the mammal's home is the Cyclops Mountains of the Papua province of Indonesia but it has been listed as in danger due to the destruction of its habitat by loggers, agricultural encroachment and hunting.

Professor Jonathan Baillie, the ZSL's director of conservation, said: "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. This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet."

The ZSL's Ellen Butcher, who co-wrote the report, said: "All the species listed are unique and irreplaceable. If we take immediate action we can give them a fighting chance for survival."

Most endangered: facts and figures
Araripe manakin, Antilophia bokermanni

Where found: Brazil


Numbers left: 779

Sumatran rhinoceros, Dicerorhinus sumatrensis

Where found: Malaysia and Indonesia

Numbers left: 250

Pygmy three-toed sloth, Bradypus pygmaeus

Where found: Panama

Numbers left: 500

Spoon-billed sandpiper, Eurynorhynchus pygmeus

Where found: Russia, Bangladesh and Burma

Numbers left: 100 breeding pairs

Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, Rhinopithecus avunculus

Where found: Vietnam

Numbers left: 200

- Independent