Extinct in the Wild: Sustaining opportunity through biodiversity
Established in 1964, the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive resource on extinction risk status of animals, fungi, and plants. Year on year, the IUCN Red List has told a sorry story: the rapid decline of biodiversity in all corners of the globe.
Currently, there are more than 142,500 species on the list, with over 40,000 of these species categorised as threatened with extinction. That’s 41% of all amphibians, 37% of sharks and rays, 33% of reef-building corals, 26% of mammals and 13% of birds.
What is perhaps even more worrying, is the 80 different species that have been classified as ‘Extinct in the Wild’. These species no longer exist without intervention, completely gone from natural habitats. They are not yet extinct because they remain only in zoos, aquariums, seed banks, botanical gardens, and other collections under human stewardship.
Such a rapid loss in biodiversity presents a serious threat to all the processes we need to support life on earth. Pollinating animals are estimated to be responsible for a third of the world’s crop production. Many of our medicines, and other complex chemicals used in daily life, originate from plants. Coral reefs and mangrove forests act as natural defences protecting coastlines from flooding, waves, and storms. It is not hyperbole to suggest that without such biodiversity, human life could not be sustained.
That is why our partner, ZSL (Zoological Society of London), together with the Wilder Institute and IUCN, is launching a new campaign to improve outcomes for Extinct in the Wild flora and fauna. On World Wildlife Day 2022, we turn our collective attention to delivering measurable animal and habitat conservation projects that protect the communities we operate in.
Bringing hope to recovery
The future of Extinct in the Wild species rests within our hands. We indeed must make an active decision to say these species will not go extinct on our watch, but more than that, they must be reintroduced to the wild.
The act of securing the future of Extinct in the Wild species requires considerable investment and many other aspects of training, habitat conservation and protection. The loss of wildlife is felt culturally within communities and their release and recovery can be totemic; providing an active flagship around which many others can gather.
These programmes act as an umbrella for a broad suite of conservation responses that will benefit countless other species. People sometimes ask, why focus on the most threatened species specifically? Why not let them go and focus on others still in the wild? To ask this is to miss the broader picture.
There are over 4,000 Critically Endangered species, many of which are dwindling to tiny numbers, where the only viable solution will be to bring them into breeding programmes. The skills and capacity developed through the Extinct in the Wild initiative will have broad application.
We as humanity decided to rescue these species by bringing them into zoos, aquariums, and sanctuaries, and we now have a responsibility to ensure their survival. DP World and ZSL are acting alongside broad efforts to restore landscapes, and only by tackling global problems together will we succeed.
Reintroducing the Guam Rail
Thankfully, it is indeed possible to restore an Extinct in the Wild species. Restoration programmes are often a delicate balancing act, not only releasing the species but managing the environment so the conditions that contributed to its extinction do not pose the same threat once again.
This is well demonstrated by the restoration of the Guam Rail (or Ko'ko' bird), a flightless bird endemic to the island. Once abundant, the bird’s population deteriorated over the decades following World War II, when brown tree snakes were accidentally transported in military cargo from their native range in Papua New Guinea. With no prior experience of such a predator, numbers of the Guam Rail dwindled whilst the snakes thrived.
The snakes had a major effect on native birds and reptiles, causing the local extinction of over half the native birds and lizard species. The loss of seed dispersing species impacted the island’s forests, where over 70% of the trees have fruits that are adapted to be dispersed by birds. Guam even experienced widespread power cuts as the growing snake population arced electrical lines.
As management of the tree snake problem continues, the Guam Rail was rescued into captivity and released to the neighbouring islands of Cocos and Rota. Both islands were free from the invasive snake and the Rail population has been able to flourish. In 2019, the species became the first bird to be formally down-listed from Extinct in the Wild to Critically Endangered, a significant milestone.
In 2021, we entered the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development: it has never been more important to address environmental challenges with nature-based solutions like those implemented to bring back the Guam Rail.
A nature-based solution
Nature-based options are DP World’s first choice for addressing the challenges facing our communities. As the leading provider of smart trade solutions, we operate a network of 181 businesses in 64 countries, with ports, logistics hubs and marine terminals situated on some of our most vulnerable coastlines. We could not and would not do this work without supporting each community’s biodiversity.
Since 2021, DP World has worked with ZSL to drive meaningful, global action that contributes to the recovery of threatened species. Our local teams have access to the Mangrove Restoration Potential Mapping tool, as well as technical and regulatory guidance to implement community-based ecological mangrove restoration. In the last year alone, our teams have planted over 60,000 mangrove seedlings across Ecuador, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Mozambique.
At DP World Karachi, our team is working with the Sindh Forest Department, the Conservation Restoration Alliance for Biodiversity, and the local community, according to Pakistan’s targeted geographical areas for mangrove development. So far, a total of 30,250 seedlings from the Rhizophora mucronata and Avicenna marina species have been planted across a 10-hectare location. Every step from site selection to seed plantation has been planned for, with regular monitoring in place to secure long-term success.
Mangrove restoration around the world is unlocking a wealth of opportunities for local communities to prosper. Through photosynthesis, mangroves absorb huge amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and provide a revenue source through carbon offset credits. Mangroves provide local people with livelihoods, food security, timber and much-needed coastal defences. Community involvement is vital for the longevity of this work. Cooperation for longevity
Our business, and the wellbeing of our people and communities, is largely built on the sustainability of our environments. Through continued partnership with ZSL, and other top conservation organisations including The Jane Goodall Institute, Tusk Trust, Space for Giants and United for Wildlife, we’re deploying the nature-based solutions that our communities need.
To reverse the fate of our most critically endangered species is no small task, but it is one that we at DP World feel a responsibility to address. For now, we are confident that through expert and community cooperation, we can protect biodiversity for generations to come, and ensure that all life on the planet we share has a future to look forward to.