New animals declared close to extinction – should we care?

Sep 30, 2021, 5:24 PM
nearing extinction...
The ivory-billed woodpecker, seen here as a mounted specimen, was last sighted in the 1980s in Louisiana. Mandatory Credit: Auscape/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY — An announcement this week by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that nearly two dozen species of animals were nearing extinction wasn’t met with alarm in some circles.

Dave Noriega, half of the KSL NewsRadio team of Dave and Dujanovic sat squarely on the “not so much alarm” bench when the two discussed the issue this week.


But Debbie Dujanovic said she cares and wants others to as well.  Their guest was a University of Utah biology professor who explained the importance of keeping an ecosystem in balance.

“First and foremost is the moral and ethical reasons,” said University of Utah Biology Associate Professor Cagan Sekercioglu, who acknowledged that if a person doesn’t care about animals dying then it’s likely you won’t change their mind.

Related: Animals dangling out of helicopters? It’s all for their health and safety

“But if you care, it’s a deep personal connection.”

There are rational reasons to care outside of one’s personal feelings, Sekercioglu said. First and foremost is the health of the ecosystems in which the animals live.

“The ecosystems depend on these species, and the more species we lose, the more consequences we have,” he said.

As an example, he pointed to Dutch apple orchards. He said apple production is reduced by about 67% when birds in these orchards are excluded from the picture.

Related: Utah reports 1,056 animals illegally poached last year across state

Jamaican coffee farms were another example cited by Sekercioglu. “When you lose warblers there … you have to use $310 more, per year, per hectar, in pesticides, to control the coffee pests.”

Endangered animals are also integral in pollination and seed dispersal (especially in rain forests), which can lead to the extinction of trees in some instances.

It’s a natural domino effect, in other words. A more striking example comes from India, where before the 1990s they were abundant and common. They acted as “natural garbage men” Dr. Sekercioglu said.

But when they were poised, their numbers began to crash. Their function as garbageman was replaced by feral dogs, which brought more instances of rabies to the humans who shared the vultures’ ecosystems, and rabies-related deaths.

Did the examples provided by Dr. Sekercioglu change Dave’s mind? “I can see humans caring about something cute,” Dave said, “but are we going to raise money for freshwater mussels?”


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  


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