Wombats not worth saving

In Australia, some species are too expensive to protect

Wombats not worth saving

R. van Nostrand/Photo Researchers

The northern hairy-nosed wombat, a burrowing marsupial native to Australia, is a critically endangered species—but according to Australian researchers, it may not be worth saving. A team from the University of Adelaide and James Cook University has developed a new index, called Species Ability to Forestall Extinction (SAFE), that takes current and minimum viable population sizes into account to determine if it’s just too expensive to save a particular animal. “SAFE is the best predictor yet of the vulnerability of mammal species to extinction,” says Corey Bradshaw, director of ecological modelling at Adelaide’s Environment Institute. Not all critically endangered species “are equal,” he says.

The northern hairy-nosed wombat might be a loser in this equation, but other species win. Based on this formula, conservationists should prioritize the Sumatran instead of the Javan rhinoceros, Bradshaw suggests: “The Sumatran rhino is more likely to be brought back from the brink of extinction based on its SAFE index.” Efforts to save endangered species are a bit like triage on the battlefield, these researchers argue, in which doctors have to make tough choices about who can, and can’t, be saved.




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Wombats not worth saving

  1. Not all endangered species are equal. The kangaroo is a national symbol of Australia while the wombat is just another marsupial. Regarding Canada, how far are Canadians willing to go to save the polar? What about the beaver, if the beaver were similarly endangered? The United States only banned the use of DDT when the bald eagle was on the brink of extinction.

    Like it or not, judging the impact of endangered species is also based on psychological factors of the people who believe them to be endangered.

  2. it appears we are now into “selective extinction”. let’s start with homo sapiens. oh, it’s been tried and is still an option – too cynical now

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