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Scientists Create a "Worth Saving" Index For Endangered Animals

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the not-worth-the-effort dept.

Idle 259

If you're one of the last hairy-nosed-wombats left in Australia things got a little worse for you today. Thanks to a new mathematical tool created by researchers from James Cook University and the University of Adelaide, the wombat has been classified as not worth saving. Co-author of the safe index Professor Corey Bradshaw says he doesn't think people should give up on saving extremely endangered animals but adds, "...if you take a strictly empirical view, things that are well below in numbering in the hundreds - white-footed rock rats, certain types of hare wallabies, a lot of the smaller mammals that have been really nailed by the feral predators like cats, and foxes - in some cases it is probably not worthwhile putting a lot of effort because there's just no chance."

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Well, you can't save 'em all (3, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757600)

I know it's not very politically-correct to say it, but I don't think we should be trying to save every species. The prevailing assumption today seems to be that mankind is causing every extinction on the planet and, as such, we should be working to save every species and variety of endangered animal. Even ignoring that fact that mankind is part of nature too, extinction is a natural process that was taking place long before we existed. It seems to me that a world where species DON'T go extinct (thanks to our efforts) would disrupt the natural processes of evolution. Our guilt complex could create a very unnatural world.

And for the record, I think Pandas are cute. But they're not exactly a hearty lot.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (2)

halfEvilTech (1171369) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757722)

I guess alot of this would come down to one question, are humans responisble for why they are an endangered species?

If we are then we should probably put a effort into saving them especially if they are essential to their habitats such as bats and what not. If we are no way related to why they are going extinct such as a natural disease or predator in the area, then let nature take its course.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (4, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757906)

I guess alot of this would come down to one question, are humans responisble for why they are an endangered species?

There are other relevant and unanswerable questions, such as would they have gone extinct without our help. However, since we can't save them all, the MOST important question BY FAR is how important is this creature to the ecosystem upon which I depend. Everything else is just moral masturbation.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (2)

pushing-robot (1037830) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758212)

You know, you're not very important to the ecosystem upon which I depend.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758842)

No, but his SPECIES is absolutely vital to it.

After all, without humans, you'd have nobody to push down the stairs...

Morality is a legitimate part of policy (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758228)

> Everything else is just moral masturbation.

Perhaps, but some of us think morality should influence policy decisions, our decisions, or the decisions of institutions that study endangered animals.

Nobody I've ever met--and nobody I would ever trust--advocates for absolute amorality. Open-mindedness, yes. Largely scientific decision-making processes, sure. But at the end of the day, one should not discount the morality of acts simply because they don't contribute to your own survival. If someone rapes a friend of mine, or even a total stranger, I don't think that's okay just because it doesn't influence my day. Even if their rationalization was "I need to make sure my evolutionary branch of humanity continues and I can't get a date, ergo this is justified by survival and rules against it are just morality."

I do agree with a slight modification of your statement--that the most important question in the endangered species question from a resource allocation perspective is how important the creature is to the ecosystem on which humanity depends. But I don't think morality should not be a factor in policy choices. For example, even on slashdot, where rationality and science are on occasion revered, people seem to care at least a little about whether mankind is responsible for the potential demise of a creature in determining whether we have an obligation to save it.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758268)

This. Extiction is a part of the natural process of things, and so are humans. So what if a creature is extinct from rats versus birds versus humans. Now, I think it would be nice to save some creatures for posterity and fun, but let's not pretend it is crucial for future existence, or that we are gods who are responsible for the preservation of all that lives. The bottom line on whether an species should continue to exist, lies in one fundamental question: how does it taste?

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758538)

There are other relevant and unanswerable questions, such as would they have gone extinct without our help.

100% of all living things will go extinct, without question.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758560)

Everything else is just moral masturbation.

Your statement is a logical impossibility, and therefore a non sequitur. Moral people do not masturbate.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758844)

We can't save species, we can only mitigate the damage we do to their habitats, and we'll never do that because we're collectively too selfish, short-sided, and stupid, our psyches captured by the echo chamber BS. Looking at puppets like Senator Barton, another big-oil green-house effect denier, shows the general attitude of the status quo.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Ferzerp (83619) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757948)

I'll buy the "especially if they are essential" line partially. I say partially because if these species are nearly extinct and their ecosystem hasn't been destroyed then we really should question how essential they are.

Otherwise, I must ask you one thing. Why exactly should we put forth an effort? Because it feels good? Are we unnatural? I've seen a lot of claims like yours, but they never say why other than appeals to what feels right to an individual.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758258)

While nature has many redudant spots, this type of classification system is ignorant. There have been several species that have come back from the brink, some we thought were gone completely. Tools such as this database are simply a way for us to ignore our responsibilities. How easy is it to abuse such things?

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758822)

Are you seriously dismissing "it just feels good" as a motivator to do something? I would say that doing things becasue they make you feel good is probably one of the strongest human motivators that exists. Why do humans consume drugs and alcohol, even though they know these things can be unhealthy? Why do people make anonymous donations to charities? Why do people help little old ladies across the street? Why do people donate money to charities for other countries? Why do people cheat on their partners? Why doesn't the morbidly obese person stop eating double bacon cheeseburgers? All of these questions can be answered "becasue it just feels good".

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758254)

But we are part of nature, and what we destroy is too part of the nature taking its course. So what if we destroy species, as long as we can live without them (and we only need livestock, and certain grains to survive), then why waste resources on saving them...

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

tompaulco (629533) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758466)

I guess alot of this would come down to one question, are humans responisble for why they are an endangered species?
That depends. Is a fox responsible for preserving an endangered species that it has preyed almost into extinction? It could be beneficial to the fox to do so if that is the only thing that it can eat. But I doubt it would consider the long run effects when it is hungry now.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Syhra (1089779) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758862)

I guess alot of this would come down to one question, are humans responisble for why they are an endangered species?.

If we are then we should probably put a effort into saving them especially if they are essential to their habitats such as bats and what not. If we are no way related to why they are going extinct such as a natural disease or predator in the area, then let nature take its course.

I think this has little to do with it. Ultimately we have scientists with a very robust theory, evolution. We currently have a situation of significant selective pressure, as evidenced by the increased number of extinctions that have occurred in recent times. We also have a number of species that we think are at risk for extinction. We are merely trying to determine if our understanding of evolution is sufficient that we can take species which appear to be unable to deal with the selective pressure they are facing and turn them into species that are able. You do this by looking at the whole equation of habitat, predator-prey, population, etc. It is the logical next step - practical application of the theory.

In order to do this, you need to pick species that are doing poorly, but with favourable equations. Meaning that you put your resources into the ones that you think require fairly small changes to turn them around. The ones that have the odds stacked so far against them would be fascinating to succeed with, but would take a long time, and be subject to too many variables to clearly show the benefit resultant from your efforts.

Benefits from this application may eventually be there for those with deep pockets, once the basic science is hashed out. Not that there aren't a lot of bleeding hearts out there to fund the research, but they are most interested in the cute ones, the large ones, and the ones most like themselves (mammals, social structures, etc).

Personifying Nature only is there to create a god out of the mashup of rules that exist out there and create another moral entity, there is no such thing as natural when speaking of disease or predators. Invasive species are simply the ones better adapted to their current environment. This is nothing more than finding a complex machine and trying to figure out how it works.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (4, Interesting)

redemtionboy (890616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757772)

Pandas are the perfect example of something not worth saving. There are many that suppose that pandas were on their way out as a species without our interference just because of the extreme inefficiency of their bodies. It takes an extreme amount of energy to process the bamboo it eats, not to mention the birth problems it faces with low birth rates and high infant mortality. The only reason we have rallied behind pandas is because they're cute, and maybe there is some benefit to having a cute staple animal we've saved as a rallying cry for conservation, but I'd like to think there were easier options out there.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757932)

I used to joke that Koalas evolved their cuteness as a survival mechanism. They're so cute that humans take them out of their hostile natural environment and put them in nice safe zoos, where all they have to do is sleep all day and occasionally make cute for the crowds. It's a kind of symbiotic relationship where being attractive really pays off (kind of like Hollywood).

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

YoshiDan (1834392) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758132)

I used to think Koalas were cute. Until I watched a documentary and saw how vicious they are. They're rotten animals.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (3, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758220)

Once again there is a parallel to be drawn here with the pretty people in Hollywood.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758526)

Similar things can be said of dolphins or chimpanzees. Everyone loves them, for they are cute... but they have a level of sadistic viciousness to rival humans.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (2)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758788)

"If cats looked like frogs we'd realize what nasty, cruel little bastards they are. Style. That's what people remember."
â" Terry Pratchett (Lords and Ladies)

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758160)

The standing joke among scientists in the field is that there are three modern-day evolutions that determine whether a creature will survive the next two centuries.

#1 - Lives in an environment humans can't survive in long enough to colonize (deep sea, extremely high mountain, antarctic)
#2 - Looks "extremely cute" by human standards such that either humans will feed them, or humans will not get pissed off when they break into the garbage looking for food (raccoons, foxes, pigeons, etc)
#3 - Small enough and numerous enough that they are just not fucking going to go away because we don't notice them until they are present in EXTREMELY high numbers. Roaches, ants, mice/rats, etc.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (2)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758352)

The standing joke among scientists in the field is that there are three modern-day evolutions that determine whether a creature will survive the next two centuries.

#1 - Lives in an environment humans can't survive in long enough to colonize (deep sea, extremely high mountain, antarctic)
#2 - Looks "extremely cute" by human standards such that either humans will feed them, or humans will not get pissed off when they break into the garbage looking for food (raccoons, foxes, pigeons, etc)
#3 - Small enough and numerous enough that they are just not fucking going to go away because we don't notice them until they are present in EXTREMELY high numbers. Roaches, ants, mice/rats, etc.

#4 Is it tasty and if so, can it be bred in captivity easily.

Panda's not worth saving, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35757964)

Well don't come crying to me should an omnipotent and rather irritable alien probe travel billions of light years just to talk to the pandas.

Re:Panda's not worth saving, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758238)

Why would we come crying to you? Do you LOOK like Captain Kirk?

Re:Panda's not worth saving, you say? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758718)

Clearly he's been experimenting with the LDS.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758096)

well, something has to eat all that bamboo. shit grows like weeds

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758384)

Pandas are the perfect example of something not worth saving. There are many that suppose that pandas were on their way out as a species without our interference just because of the extreme inefficiency of their bodies. It takes an extreme amount of energy to process the bamboo it eats, not to mention the birth problems it faces with low birth rates and high infant mortality.

But the pandas got that way because it was, overall, worthwhile, otherwise they would have died out long ago. So what's changed?

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

rainmouse (1784278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758536)

Pandas are the perfect example of something not worth saving.

Pandas are of huge cultural significance to China. The effort required to save them is clearly worth it to the Chinese. If death by natural causes is your only meter stick for intervention, then should be not send foreign aid? After all most of these people in droughts, earthquakes, mudslides, floods etc are dying of natural causes. Should leave them to die in peace as well?

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (4, Insightful)

quatin (1589389) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758768)

Pandas are the perfect example of something we should save. The low breeding ratio for pandas is an evolutionary trait that's beneficial in its natural environment. A panda is a giant cow with teeth and claws. It has no natural predators once it reaches adult size. If pandas were to breed on the level of rabbits it would destroy the plant ecosystem in Asia. The truth is if it were not for deforestation by humans, the pandas would be prolific. We need to balance our effect on the environment.

Examples of animals not worth saving would be the endangered freshwater mollusk colony in north Florida that was at risk due to low water levels caused by prolonged drought.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

c00rdb (945666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757842)

Natural or not, if you want to take that point of view you should look at biodiversity and species benefit to mankind. So if a species was going to "go extinct anyway" but it was very useful to us, obviously it would be worth saving. Who cares if its "natural" or not? The problem is we don't know which species may be beneficial in the future. People who complain about it being unnatural are the same who argue putting bacteria on Mars is unnatural therefore unethical...seriously, who cares?

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757962)

A species that was "very useful" to man would have been domesticated. Kinda like sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, and horses.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

c00rdb (945666) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758038)

Like all those rare medicinal plants being found in the Amazon every year? You're saying every single one has been investigated and found to be of no use?

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758208)

Obligatory Futurama reference: Who knows when something like Anchovies will have the precise combination of oils to create infinite robot energy!?!! Just because we haven't domesticated them doesn't mean they won't necessarily be useful in the future for some unforeseen reason.

Of course, this is where packrat mentality comes into play. Eventually, you have to get rid of something (Or in this case, you can't save them all. Unless we get really good at cloning and storing their genetic samples to revive them later....)

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758310)

> A species that was "very useful" to man would have been domesticated. Kinda like sheep, cattle, dogs, cats, and horses.

Or extremophile bacteria useful in terraforming planets or breaking down oil? We haven't even encountered all problems yet, much less studied every organism in such detail as to know whether it would be useful in solving a problem in its unmodified state, much less done so with the technology that will exist ten years from now. That's A LOT of stuff.

Maybe it's more efficient to allocate resources to studying those things than it is to preserving the species, but we put only a few resources into preserving species and many into studying those things, so maybe we haven't reached the tradeoff point yet.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758734)

I'm pretty sure people don't worry about putting bacteria on Mars for any ethical reason. The big reason is because scientists don't want to contaminate Mars. If we want to find evidence of current or past life on Mars, it's much easier if we don't have Earth life running a muck up there.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (5, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757916)

True. The problem is that his metric is wrong. The easiest way to deal with a pesky endangered animal that is blocking your development has now become to actually kill it even more. Once it goes below the specified threshold, it's put on the not-worth-saving list, and you can merrily go on developing.

The proper metric is how important a particular species is to its local environment. Think keystone species like Krill, wolves, Killer Whales or Tuna. The problem is that this is difficult - how do you measure importance? How do you know you measured something right, or at all? The response to this is that of caution: if we don't know which ones to save, we'll try to save as many as we can, and hope we pick right.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (2)

ElectricTurtle (1171201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757918)

I've been saying this a long time now. The biosphere is supposed to be in flux, and for all the species that go extinct (and 99% over earth's history have, and that's not hyperbole) that everybody seems to wring their hands over, nobody seems to notice the species that develop (and that the number of species over time on an epochal scale has always been net positive).

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758146)

I think that some of us do notice. However a lot of the most fascinating ones are ones that terrify people. Look at MRSA and other treatment resilient bacteria. They're the only things that cycle through generations fast enough for most of humanity to notice that they're changing; plus they have a profound impact on our health. I personally think they're incredibly fascinating.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758186)

The problem is that the rate of decline at this point has rarely if ever been seen before. The argument you're making there is one which isn't based upon any actual scientific evidence or theory. The problem is that it's unusual for an animal to go extinct without there being repercussions along the food chain. In the past when it was happening naturally, it wasn't that big of a deal because the rate of change was sufficiently slow that things would evolve to fill the hole.

These days though, it's happening a lot faster, and a lot of the space which previously would have been inhabited by new species is taken up by us, and we've got basically no genetic diversity.

Consequently the whole idea of prioritizing in this fashion isn't going to be helpful in the long run as the few animals that are going extinct over just one or two factors are likely to both be easy to save and probably not very useful anyways.

In the U.S. (1)

edawstwin (242027) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757994)

The prevailing assumption today seems to be that mankind is causing every extinction on the planet and, as such, we should be working to save every species and variety of endangered animal

If we had the attitude of Mr. Cook in the U.S., it would save loads of tax dollars and businesses wouldn't have to move or cancel expansion plans nearly as often. It's like programs that help save lives. If one costs $10,000 per life saved, and another costs $500,000 per life saved, clearly we should forgo the latter and concentrate on the former. Unfortunately, people are too sympathetic for logic to take over.

Re:In the U.S. (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758576)

Or there is the coldly pragmatic approach: Calculate how much a life is worth, and just let anyone who would cost more die.

Re:In the U.S. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758702)

Or there is the coldly pragmatic approach: Calculate how much a life is worth, and just let anyone who would cost more die.

I believe that's called Libertarianism. *rimshot*

Idealogical Dichotomy? (2)

yogidog98 (1800862) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757998)

I never really thought of it that way. You may bring up an interesting dichotomy: My general impression is that most most animal preservation activists tend to be evolutionists, even though evolutionists should believe that extinction is a natural part of the evolutionary cycle. On the other hand, religionists tend to believe that we should do our best to preserve every creature the deity created, but my impression is they tend to have more lax environmental policy.

I'm not suggesting causal relationships between evolutionists and preservationist or religionists and lax environmental policy, just that they seem to be somewhat correlated--by geography if nothing else.

Re:Idealogical Dichotomy? (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758412)

My impression is that in the US, the correlations are mostly there because of political parties. There's no logical reason most of them should be there. There are also some correlations due to education and its ties to liberalism and cute fuzzy animals on the one hand, and correlations between business success and lack-of-english-majory-thoughts (The why vs. the how) or cute-fuzzy-animals on the other.

Re:Idealogical Dichotomy? (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758592)

The US only has two significent political parties, and they both define the sides on every debate and are in turn defined by them. Over the decades it has to some extent split the country into two ideological camps, caught in mutual loathing.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758002)

This is epic;

"It seems to me that a world where species DON'T go extinct (thanks to our efforts) would disrupt the natural processes of evolution."

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758018)

And for the record, I think Pandas are cute. But they're not exactly a hearty lot.

I'm not sure how their loud vigor or cheerful disposition really matters in this case. Though to most, I imagine their gentle nature makes them appear to show a great deal of warm affection, so I'd argue they are quite hearty-- if perhaps not so in the normal connotation. In the end though, does this really affect whether or not we should save them from extinction?

Of course, if they were more hardy, it wouldn't really matter. Animals which show a propensity to survive in adverse conditions would survive hearty or not...

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758020)

I agree with you OP. Sadly while mankind is responsible for a LOT of extinctions that happen, we're not the sole cause. Natural selection implies that something has to be selected against. We can save some things, but not everything. So, lets triage our efforts on the ones that have the most sense. Also, pandas are stupid and made of poop.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758056)

We've evolved so that we can't survive in a completely natural world anymore; two of the three basic necessities of life, clothing and shelter, are inventions.

We should partner with animals and all living creatures to learn from them and advance knowledge together with them. The wombat's genome may know things that could benefit us, and vice versa. Like the mole rat has almost no cancer...

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758614)

Not at anywhere close to current population levels, anyway. In princible humans could survive in some climates - and even in much of the world, if you allowed for the use of fire and a few animal skins as clothing. But hunter-gatherer societies would be limited in size by available food, just like any other animal.

Its not politically correct to say it. (2, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758072)

its WRONG to say it.

if you have a problem, you fix it. its as simple as that. when you go into calculations of 'worth' as if your biosphere was a business venture, the 'not worth' you have 'not saved' comes bites you in the ass due to chain reactions in biosphere.

i see that as an ill that capitalist mindset brought to our civilization - we are seeing everything from a window of 'cost/benefit'. not surprisingly, just like how economies come crashing down due to extreme adherence to these cost/benefit perspectives.there are too many variables that even the most foresighted analyst, the most complex computer forecasting cannot see and prepare for. ecosystems are no different - they are objects that are formed by inherently interrelated infinite number of elements.

there are areas in life where you should leave nothing to chance. the ecosystem you live in, is one of them.

Re:Its not politically correct to say it. (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758230)

Indeed, it's OK to let things go extinct, at as far as the populations in the wild go, but the determination ought to be whether it's our fault or natural, not whether or not its cost effective. We're unlikely to know the cost of letting a species go extinct until it's gone. Beyond that though, this is like climate change in that the sooner you start to deal with the problem the less costly and the simpler the fix is.

Re:Its not politically correct to say it. (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758850)

it's OK to let things go extinct ... but the determination ought to be whether it's our fault or natural, not whether or not its cost effective.

By that logic, it's OK to let bananas go extinct, yet companies are pumping quite a lot of cash into saving them.

Re:Its not politically correct to say it. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758356)

Any human society will have economic limitations, the overarching design of the economic system is only relevant to the extent that it will impact those limitations.

I.e., you can holler about it being wrong to choose, but it is very likely that we will be forced to do so.

Re:Its not politically correct to say it. (1)

mdarksbane (587589) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758668)

And... so what *should* be base these decisions on? You do not have infinite time and resources. The world does not work that way.

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758178)

Well, the statements "humans are a part of nature" and "our guilt complex could create a very unnatural world" seem to be somewhat in conflict...

If we're part of nature, it would be perfectly natural for us to prevent animals from going extinct. Clearly that animal has some sort of trait (ie with pandas - they're cute) that attracts us to them and makes us want to save them. Plenty of animals depend on other animals to survive. Whether or not it's beneficial to humans/the world for us to save them is hard to say, but there's nothing unnatural about it

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (4, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758514)

It seems to me that a world where species DON'T go extinct (thanks to our efforts) would disrupt the natural processes of evolution. Our guilt complex could create a very unnatural world.

What's so great about evolution or living in a natural world? Like gravity, evolution merely is. Are you suggesting it's some kind of ideal to strive for or preserve?

Everything comes down to the question: What do you want? Unless you happen to like like catching smallpox, starving, falling down and skinning your knee, or sleeping in the rain -- or yes, if you like losing species whose DNA codes potentially useful proteins or species that are just plain pleasingly cute -- mother nature doesn't "want" what you want. I'm not saying be either her friend or her foe; I'm saying it's silly to want to respect her "wishes." She doesn't respect your wishes. That bitch is cold.

Fuck evolution. Evolution is something you need to understand and perhaps use, but it's not something to love.

Not that I disagree with you at all that we can't or shouldn't expend the effort to save every species. But damn, using "it's a natural process" as a reason for deciding a certain way -- ICK!

Re:Well, you can't save 'em all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758646)

"a world where species DON'T go extinct (thanks to our efforts) would disrupt the natural processes of evolution" that is true. The rest is BS that ignores our collective mechanized tech that already clear-cut 50% of the world's tropical forests. Our pollutants injected into land, sea & air, no triviall thing, are all man-made garbage trashing the natural world. You could argue that's part of evolution too, but only if your all for no adult supervision aka "regulation" whatsoever and look forward to a geologic epoch of loneliness, where the we humans are the sole inhabitanting large mammals, except for a few very unfortuante factory farm animal species, might survive on tech for awhile, but not for long.

The goal is not to save species, but to save money (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35757678)

I think there is a lot of motivation for certain groups to get as many species as possible onto the not worth saving lists to minimize government enviormental policy/spending.

Re:The goal is not to save species, but to save mo (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757892)

Look at how much money is spent on the Great Panda, a species that has no habitat to be returned to even if we could somehow boost it's population up to sustainable levels. If you really want to save as many endangered species as possible you would spend the money elsewhere. The same is true for many species; their habitats are gone, their food source evaporated, the populations well below the number required to prevent genetic drift, but we spend millions of dollars on them. That money could be better spent on animals that haven't yet slid past the point of no return.

Re:The goal is not to save species, but to save mo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758124)

+1 Please somebody kill all pandas. Spend the money to save the species that don't need to be sedated and raped so that they might have a chance of maybe giving birth to a little retarded copy of themselves without dying.
I'm sure the original pandas were a really wonderful species(well not so sure), but by the time we started caring about them they had devolved into what they are now.

Re:The goal is not to save species, but to save mo (1)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758452)

a species that has no habitat to be returned to even if we could somehow boost it's population up to sustainable levels.

And the reason for the loss of habitat? Man. We are the ones who created the reason pandas don't have enough room, or food, to survive.

A similar story goes for the Snow Leopard, Siberian Tiger, Indian Tiger, and a whole host of other animals. We are the ones destroying their habitat or killing them (for body parts to be used in superstitious rituals, not for food) at a rate faster than they can reproduce.

While one can argue nature is taking its course, I will refer you to the infamous quote from The Matrix:

Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment; but you humans do not. Instead you multiply, and multiply, until every resource is consumed. The only way for you to survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern... a virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer on this planet, you are a plague, and we... are the cure.

I don't necessarily agree with the final few words, but the rest are accurate.

Re:The goal is not to save species, but to save mo (1)

residieu (577863) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758436)

It's called triage.

You've got limited resources, you want those resources to go toward a worthwhile project. You don't want to waste money saving a species you have no chance of saving.

Just like you don't waste time saving the person who's already dead when you have living people you can save around.

Sure (0, Troll)

Dyinobal (1427207) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757712)

That's what they said about the Jews.

Re:Sure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35757756)

Burn the Palestinian flag [flagburningworld.com]

hymen remains unproven as natural development (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35757716)

repost. so who needs it? that answer straightens out quite a bit of theatrical prop work? on to the tower of babel? convergences are pending.

using the genuine native american elders rising bird of prey leadership initiative (teepeeleaks etchings), there's more bad behavior than just real sex religious training, physical alterations & mutilations, depopulations, exterminations etc.. in our real history. our minds & spirits are also affected, but not dead yet, either. the planet will repair itself. will we? could probably breed out that hymen thing in a 1000 years or so, if nobody goes deity holycost on us again, ever. monkeys don't have one.

mynutswon; whois the installer of the hymen (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758188)

what a 'feature'? kind of the 'gatekeeper' of life? not having one can render a female less than worthless, (depending on her station). what a product? how did the monkeys, & natives, ever know what to do, without their hymens?

arbuscular mychorrhizal fungi (2)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757752)

Can I propose the arbuscular mychorrhizal fungi for protection? Not sure what it is, but it was the first thing to pop up when I typed 'endangered microorganism' in Google.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/cx815t3578004x20/ [springerlink.com]

-- New business idea: endangered species marketing strategy consultant

Re:arbuscular mychorrhizal fungi (1)

turtledawn (149719) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758762)

YES!!! Mycorrhizal fungi are absolutely essential for the continued existence of all plant-based ecosystems!!

Slippery slope (0)

john82 (68332) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757812)

So now we're considering passive eugenics for wild species. How is that any more acceptable that eugenics applied to humans?

If we don't take care of nature, one day nature won't be there to take care of us.

Re:Slippery slope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758034)

I can't imagine a situation where hairy-nosed wombats would be in some way crucial to the human species.
We, as a species, are also just some lifeform inhabiting this planet. Just because we might be more intelligent than others doesn't mean we have to live by different rules. A doubt that any (other) species cares about extinctions if it isn't them.

Re:Slippery slope (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758266)

You're admitting to not having seen Star Trek IV here?

Re:Slippery slope (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758066)

If we don't take care of this particular ecosystem, one day this particular ecosystem won't be there to take care of us.

Re:Slippery slope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758328)

So now we're considering passive eugenics for wild species. How is that any more acceptable that eugenics applied to humans?

If we don't take care of nature, one day nature won't be there to take care of us.

That is a great example of a slippery slope argument!

Re:Slippery slope (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758740)

We're also eating animals. Yet somehow very few people fear that we might be on a slippery slope to eating humans. And that includes those who think it is immoral to eat animals.

Predicted future news: (2, Interesting)

Even on Slashdot FOE (1870208) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757836)

Professor Corey Bradshaw was assassinated by PETA agents for daring to imply that any animal was less important than any human. Their press release states that any other scientists that dare to put the survival of the hated human race above the that of the least important member of the animal kingdom would be similarly put to death.

Re:Predicted future news: (1)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758616)

Citation needed? Google and Google News aren't turning up anything like that, or even an indication that he's dead.

This Just in... (1)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757966)

Humanity unable to stop survival of the fittest. Mother nature wins this round, but humanity still hopeful that they will be able to control the planets temperature.

Re:This Just in... (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758108)

there is no bullshit like 'survival of the fittest' when humanity is the factor that consciously brings in cats, dogs, and breeds and releases them as pests over wildlife. its not natural. its unconscious, unintended engineering of ignorant masses.

Re:This Just in... (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758832)

Humans are just an artificial land bridge.

When continents collided, sea levels dropped because of ice ages, "alien" animals invaded other places and killed off native species through out geological history.

All animals are equal, but some more than others (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 3 years ago | (#35757974)

The best way forward is to preserve habitats, not species. Then you don't have to choose for induvidual species...
All habitats are not equal anyway (just listen to any nature documentary about a coral reef). We don't have trouble saying some are more pretty/valuable than others.

In other news... (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758224)

"Slashdotter creates 'worth saving' index for endangered habitats."

Genetic samples (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35757984)

Surely the best thing to do in this case is to try and obtain and store sufficient genetic material from the surviving members of the doomed species that we can resurrect them at a later date should we have the wish/resources to do so.

I blame the biologist... (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758030)

who named this thing "hairy-nosed wombat".

It's like naming your kid "Gaylord" and being surprised he grows up to be a male nurse.

Save Smallpox (4, Funny)

ATestR (1060586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758052)

At one point, the Smallpox variola virus was almost completely wiped out, surviving only in a few laboratories around the world.

Now, thanks to the efforts of some people who were able to free some of those remaining captive virus, it may someday be possible to reintroduce them into the wild, allowing them to once again freely complete in nature.

Won't that be nice? Another endangered species brought back from the brink of extinction.

Re:Save Smallpox (1)

shuz (706678) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758236)

Viruses, depending on your definition, are not even considered life! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virus [wikipedia.org] . Nasa's definition of life is "Life is a self-sustained chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution" Viruses do not strictly meet this criteria. And since we only put "life" on the endangered species list your argument fails.

Triage (2)

DoomHamster (1918204) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758256)

This is basically triage for endangered species. As hard as it is, you don't want to waste your time on someone with a likely irreparable mortal wound when you have five others that might be saved if they are given priority.

Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758292)

If scientists knew a little bit about human nature they'd realize that now there will be entire groups of people who will start trying to save the animals at the bottom of that list.

Source of the idea? (1)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758304)

Did they get this idea from cracked.com [google.com] ?

I'm confused about how they quantify things (1)

diewlasing (1126425) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758338)

What do they mean by empirical, other than this ratio they speak or and this 5000 animal number? I was under the impression that all animals had their place in the ecosystem and that if one species goes extinct, it will have an impact on other species. Or am I wrong?

bison? (1)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758370)

And I suppose the efforts to save the American Bison were wasted since they were down to a few hundred in number at one point.... oh wait, now they have used up all the room we have given them and cattle ranchers are complaining their are too many.

Re:bison? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758546)

I agree. There are too many cattle ranchers. When is human hunting season?

Seems to ignore some success stories (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758378)

It's fairly well known that populations that have been drastically reduced are harder - if not impossible - to save, but picking a number as a cut-off point for "let's not even bother trying" is worrisome. The Mauritius Kestral is one example of how using such a metric would have led us astray: At it's lowest point, there were fewer than ten individuals left. The entire species should (by Bradshaw's logic) have been toast, but biologists stepped in and saved it. Today, there are several hundred birds, and the species is rebounding nicely.

Certain facts about the birds natural history may have helped make that possible (having a historically small and isolated population, or even just not being a mammal, for example) because it reduced the vulnerability to inbreeeding depression. Maybe Bradshaw's metric does in fact take some of these factors into account as well as is possible given current understanding of them; I can't tell from the article. Regardless, the fact that species that "should" have gone extinct sometimes don't suggests we should pause before giving up on them entirely. It's an entire species at stake. Would we refuse treatment to a cancer patient because their chance of survival was only, say, 20%? Of course not. Any doctor would fight to get their patient into the percentage that survive, rather than giving up because success was uncertain. Deciding how to allocate resources to save species is a difficult problem, but any simple cut-off, especially one based on population numbers, is likely to get it wrong part of the time.

Add to the list (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758440)

A few more things I would like to add to the "Not Worth Saving" list - Politicians - Lawyers - Religious extremists - Lindsay Lohan - Radio DJ's who spend a lot of time focusing on Michael Jackson/Tiger Woods/Charlie Sheen/etc - Reality Television "stars" - Hugo Chavez - The RIAA/MPAA/etc - The guy who changed the spelling to "Syfy" - The guy who added wrestling to SciFi's lineup (may be the same guy as above) - People who use IE6 - Steve Ballmer - SCO - People that bother to read the featured article Please note that about half the people listed above will eventually cause their own extinction anyway...

just make an exchange (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758492)

Look if all you want is to preserve the numbers of species, hit your local gene splicing lab. Take all the little critters that reproduce well, splice in some extra bits, hack out some bits so the modified version can't mate with the non-modified and voila you can keep the species numbers up. Imagine seventy six different phosphorescent rat species! 36 different colors of cockroaches! 50+ species of carp-like critters with producing different enzymes and eating different aquatic flora!

Wombat? It's all in the name... (1)

Aphrika (756248) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758686)

Waste of money, brains and time...

It's an acronym I use at work now and again, I can't see why it can't be applied to it's namesake.

Here's what's not going extinct: (1)

XxtraLarGe (551297) | more than 3 years ago | (#35758776)

Cows, chickens, pigs, lobsters, etc. I'll bet there would be a lot more hairy-nosed wombats in the ecosystem if I could have one for breakfast.

scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35758794)

I glance-read that as scientologists... and was only mildly surprised.

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