The extinction begins here
A. PRÁDANOS / R. MUÑIZ | MADRID / GIJÓN (10.07.08)
Asturias is one of the regions with more endangered species from all Europe.
A study on the conservation warns about animals almost unknown in the region.
It is considered as the sixth massive extinction of live on earth and it goes really quickly. It affects all members of the animal kingdom, but it results really serious among the “aristocracy” of the world fauna, the mammals. One out of four endangered species of mammals are endangered; at least 1,141 out of the 5,487 catalogued species. The dark headline was given yesterday by the International Union for the Conservation of the Nature (IUCN), which held a meeting in Barcelona. The data have been provided by the biggest study until the date, with 1,800 Scientifics of 130 countries.
Asturias contributes experts and animals in the radiography. The risk map prepared by the IUCN for Europe places the region in the red zone, with at least 78 animal and plant endangered species. Is the category of biggest risks, and its shadows lies from Asturias to the Pyrenees, throughout all the north of Spain. In the meeting from Barcelona the experts commented the situation of the capercaillie, one specie declared endangered by the government of Asturias only three years ago.
It was also pointed out to animals about which there are not always specific conservation programs. It is the case of the Iberian desman, a rat which inhabits the rivers and which disappearance symbolizes the change of the water quality. «The management of the water carried out in Spain has been catastrophic. The rivers have been the sewers of the industry”, denounces Anabel Cuttelod, coordinator in Spain of the Red List of Endangered Species of the IUCN. In Asturias the desman is also endangered, although for several other reasons. «Here the mistake was a plan for the water channeling and treatment in small villages», denounces Roberto Hartasánchez, from FAPAS, Asturian NGO that cooperates with IUCN. «We imported a model that worked in several other places, but here it was translated in the fact that the wastes that each house from the villages solved on its own, ended in water treatment facilities that do not work and dump the pollution into the river», it is explained by Fapas.
Other animals that are starting to disappear in silent from the region are the hares, the brown partridge, the beetle known as the 'rosalia alpina', or the fishing eagle, which presence is linked only to birds that use Asturias as brief stopover.
Although the attention in Asturias focuses on the preservation of the Brown bear or the bearded vulture, the Red List of Endangered Species of the IUCN, confirms the region as an exceptional place. The abundant rains, the small and concentrated industries, as well as its difficult orography, has allowed the existence in Asturias of several species already disappeared in other regions, as the wolf and the marten.
On a global scale, the worst of any possible situation relies on the Iberian lynx, which is one of the 188 mammals in critical danger of extinction. There are less than 200 individuals, and its decline is gone along with the lost of the habitats, fragmented by roads and buildings, and to the viral plagues of the rabbit, its basic prey, which is also with problems in Asturias
The situation is so critical that it doesn´t allows to beat around the bush. As well as the lynx, other mammals can face the end of their days as specie. The Father David deer, native from China, it has been considered as extinct as wild animal, although the release of captive individuals could be, as it happens with the lynx, its last chance.
For 29 species maybe their time is over. The last dolphin from the Yantze River was seen several years ago and it is labeled as “possibly extinct”. Other group of 450 mammals are “endangered”, just one step below the risk level. Among them, the Caspian seal, or the Tasman devil, which population has been decimated in 60% due to a deadly and contagious face cancer.
Apart from being the “princes” of the evolution and to be on the top of the animal hierarchy together with the human being, the mammals are normally “umbrella species” within several ecosystems. «If a mammal is lost, it is highly probable that several other species become endangered», highlights Andrew Smith, from the Arizona University (EE UU). Since the year 1,500 it has been documented the extinction of 76 mammal species.
For the UICN, the lost of biodiversity is one of the most pressing world challenges and the Red List, an alarm to manage an extinction crisis which also affects other kinds of animals. From the 44,838 known species, 38 % are in risk to disappear, almost 17,000. From these, 3,246 are critically endangered. «During our lives hundreds of species can disappear as a result of the actions carried out by the humans», lamented Julia Marton-Lefèvre, managing director of the UICN. «We cannot leave the disappearance of our closest relatives as an inheritance».