4 Jun 2010

The Alaotra Grebe – We do care!

By Rory Mccann
I felt heartened on reading through the 103 responses to last weeks featured post on the extinction of Alaotra Grebe. The question that had been posed in the original post ‘Do we care’, was answered with a resounding ‘Yes’! And it was clear, from the multitude of responses, that there are many reasons to care when a unique species goes extinct. Some of these also discussed the importance of learning from this tragic event, and others spoke of the wider issues surrounding the demise of this species. Never to be seen again Most responses, even those of one line, drew attention to a particularly sobering thought – this bird will never be seen again. In his response, Henrik Møller Thomsen remarked – ‘we will never get a chance to see that bird alive again, and our children and coming generations will not get that chance either’. Existence value is one of the benefits we all derive from the natural world – it relates to the satisfaction, fulfilment and pure pleasure we gain from the existence of ecosystems and the biodiversity within. As Harry describes in his response, the loss of Alaotra Grebe means, for all of us, ‘one less source of joy’. A lesson learnt? A lot of responses asked the question ‘what have we learned from this tragic event’? Do we care sufficiently about the extinction of a single species to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? As Charlie puts it ‘unless we are all prepared to help, it really doesn’t matter how much we say we care’. The media attention gained from the loss of Alaotra Grebe must be utilised to raise the profile of other species facing extinction by the hand of man. Steve Rowland aptly says, we must capitalise on the ‘last service Alaotra Grebe performed for humanity as it faded from the planet, acting as one of all too many environmental warning flags waving around us’. Otherwise, as Nancy Patterson writes, Alaotra Grebe will just be another ‘species on a list of forgotten creatures’. The broader view As with any environmental issue, there are greater complexities than we may at first see. Many of the world’s most endangered species live alongside the world’s poorest people, whose principle and righteous aim is to support themselves and their families. The degradation of habitats and endangerment of species is often as a result of these individuals and communities utilising the limited environmental resources around them to survive. As Tahiry describes ‘I care, but the problem is the poorness of the local population’. Sarah Klain elaborates ‘This tragic extinction event requires immediate attention to address the critical issue of poverty in Madagascar and many other developing countries that host much of the world’s biodiversity. Unless basic human needs are met, habitat destruction will continue and the list of wildlife extinctions will grow longer’. Thank you to everyone who commented on this blog. It was wonderful to read through so many positive responses! And it struck me as I was scrolling down through the posts, that for the conservation of species and habitats in this wonderful world of ours – the critical first step is to care. BirdLife International is working alongside its Madagascar partner affiliate ‘Asity Madagascar’ to built capacity within local communities and contribute to the preservation and conservation of the biodiversity of Madagascar. It is hoped, through this collaborative effort, that the extinction of other rare Madagascan endemic species can be prevented. To find out more about Asity Madagascar click here. Over the last 30 years, 21 bird species have gone extinct and a further 190 are classified as Critically Endangered. The BirdLife Preventing Extinctions Programme aims to place resources where they’re needed to keep these 190 species from following Alaotra Grebe. You can take the next step by donating to this crucial programme by following this link. To find out more about the Preventing Extinctions Programme click here. Image: Lac Alaotra without it's grebe (Frank Vassen / Flickr).