These 15 animal species have the lowest chance for survival: Researchers urge to act

March 16, 2015

Climbing rats, seabirds and tropical gophers are among the 15 animal species that are at the absolute greatest risk of becoming extinct very soon. Expertise and money is needed to save them and other highly threatened species.

A new study shows that a subset of highly threatened species - in this case 841 - can be saved from extinction for about $1.3 billion a year. However, for 15 of them the chances of conservation success are really low.

The study published in Current Biology concludes that a subset of 841 endangered animal species can be saved, but only if conservation efforts are implemented immediately and with an investment of an estimated US $1.3 billion annually to ensure the species' habitat protection and management.

Researchers, led by Assistant Prof. Dalia A. Conde from University of Southern Denmark and Prof. John E Fa from Imperial College, developed a "conservation opportunity index" using measurable indicators to quantify the possibility of achieving successful conservation.

To estimate the opportunities to conserve these species the researchers considered:

1. Opportunities of protecting its remaining habitats, which are restricted to single sites. Important factors are costs, political stability, and probability of urbanization.

2. The possibility to establish protected insurance populations in zoos: Important factors are costs and breeding expertise.

The researchers computed the cost of, and opportunities for, conserving 841 species of mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians listed by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) as restricted to single sites and categorized as Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

"AZE sites are arguably the most irreplaceable category of important biodiversity conservation sites," said Dr. Dalia A. Conde, lead author on the paper and Assistant Professor at the Max-Planck Odense Center at the University of Southern Denmark, adding:

"Conservation opportunity evaluations like ours show the urgency of implementing management actions before it is too late. However, it is imperative to rationally determine actions for species that we found to have the lowest chances of successful habitat and zoo conservation actions."

While the study indicated that 39% of the species scored high for conservation opportunities, it also showed that at least 15 AZE species are in imminent danger of extinction given their low conservation opportunity index (see list below).

The estimated total cost to conserve the 841 animal species in their natural habitats was calculated to be over US$1 billion total per year. The estimated annual cost for complementary management in zoos was US$160 million.

"Although the cost seems high, safeguarding these species is essential if we want to reduce the extinction rate by 2020," said Prof. Hugh Possingham from The University of Queensland, adding:

"When compared to global government spending on other sectors - e.g., US defense spending, which is more than 500 times greater -, an investment in protecting high biodiversity value sites is minor."

Prof. John E. Fa said, "Our exercise gives us hope for saving many highly endangered species from extinction, but actions need to be taken immediately and, for species restricted to one location, an integrative conservation approach is needed."

The paper stated the importance of integrating protection of the places these particular species inhabit with complementary zoo insurance population programmes.

According to Dr. Onnie Byers, Chair of the IUCN SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, "The question is not one of protecting a species in the wild or in zoos. The One Plan approach - effective integration of planning, and the optimal use of limited resources, across the spectrum of management from wild to zoo - is essential if we are to have a hope of achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets."

Dr. Nate Flesness, Scientific Director of the International Species Information System, stressed "We want to thank the more than 800 zoos in 87 countries which contribute animal and collection data to the International Species Information System, where the assembled global data enables strategic conservation studies like this."

Dr. Markus Gusset of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums added "Actions that range from habitat protection to the establishment of insurance populations in zoos will be needed if we want to increase the chances of species' survival."

The 15 species with the lowest chances for survival in the wild and in zoos are:


1. Bay Lycian salamander, Lyciasalamandra billae, Turkey.
2. Perereca Bokermannohyla izecksohni, Brazil.
3. Campo Grande tree frog, Hypsiboas dulcimer, Brazil.
4. Santa Cruz dwarf frog, Physalaemus soaresi, Brazil.
5. Zorro bubble-nest frog, Pseudophilautus zorro, Sri Lanka.
6. Allobates juanii, Colombia.


1. Ash's lark, Mirafra ashi, Somalia.
2. Tahiti monarch, Pomarea nigra, French Polynesia.
3. Zino's petrel, Pterodroma madeira, Madeira.
4. Mascarene petrel, Pseudobulweria aterrima, Reunion Island.
5. Wilkins's finch, Nesospiza wilkinsi, Tristan da Cunha.
6. Amsterdam albatross, Diomedea amsterdamensis, New Amsterdam (Amsterdam Island).


1. Mount Lefo brush-furred mouse, Lophuromys eisentrauti, Cameroon.
2. Chiapan climbing rat, Tylomys bullaris, Mexico.
3. Tropical pocket gopher, Geomys tropicalis.

Their low chance for survival is due to at least two of the following factors:
Paper Reference: Dalia A. Conde, Fernando Colchero, Burak Gu?neralp, Markus Gusset, Ben Skolnik, Michael Parr, Onnie Byers, Kevin Johnson, Glyn Young, Nate Flesness, Hugh Possingham & John E. Fa (2015): Opportunities and costs for preventing vertebrate extinctions. Current Biology 25(6): R1-R3.


Dalia A. Conde, Max-Planck Odense Center, University of Southern Denmark
Phone: +45 65502704

John E. Fa, Imperial College
Phone: +44 7732161443

Hugh Possingham, The University of Queesland
Phone: +61 434 079 061 (txt or email first, travelling all March)

University of Southern Denmark

Related Breeding Articles from Brightsurf:

Novel haplotype-led approach to increase the precision of wheat breeding
Wheat researchers at the John Innes Centre are pioneering a new technique that promises to improve gene discovery for the globally important crop.

Climate-adapted plant breeding
Securing plant production is a global task. Using a combination of new molecular and statistical methods, a research team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) was able to show that material from gene banks can be used to improve traits in the maize plant.

Shorebirds more likely to divorce after successful breeding
Research led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath found that a range of factors affected the fidelity and parenting behaviour of plovers, rather than being defined by the species.

Researchers help inform cassava breeding worldwide
Scientists in Cornell University's NextGen Cassava project have uncovered new details regarding cassava's genetic architecture that may help breeders more easily pinpoint traits for one of Africa's key crops.

Declining US plant breeding programs impacts food security
Decreasing access to funding, technology, and knowledge in U.S. plant breeding programs could negatively impact our future food security.

Gluten in wheat: What has changed during 120 years of breeding?
In recent years, the number of people affected by coeliac disease, wheat allergy or gluten or wheat sensitivity has risen sharply.

Decline in plant breeding programs could impact food security
A team of scientists led by Kate Evans, a Washington State University horticulture professor who leads WSU's pome fruit (apples and pears) breeding program, found that public plant breeding programs are seeing decreases in funding and personnel.

Research could save years of breeding for new Miscanthus hybrids
As climate change becomes increasingly difficult to ignore, scientists are working to diversify and improve alternatives to fossil-fuel-based energy.

Breeding new rice varieties will help farmers in Asia
New research shows enormous potential for developing improved short-duration rice varieties.

New software supports decision-making for breeding
Researchers at the University of Göttingen have developed an innovative software program for the simulation of breeding programmes.

Read More: Breeding News and Breeding Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to