THE NEW YORKER
/ September 9, 2016 /
Every four years, thousands of environmentalists gather at the World Conservation Congress to assess the state of the planet, and to consider what might be done to protect it. This year’s meeting ends Saturday, and the news this past week, with a few exceptions, has not been cheerful. Four of the six great-ape species are critically endangered, which means they are one step from extinction, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which organizes the congress. So are thousands of other species. The eastern gorilla—the world’s largest living primate—is in particular jeopardy.
The 2016 congress has been held in Hawaii, which is fitting, since the state is often referred to as the endangered-species capital of the world. President Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii, addressed the conference as it began, shortly after signing a proclamation to create the world’s largest ecological preserve. The act will protect an area of the ocean surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands that is twice the size of Texas. Nonetheless, nearly ninety per cent of the Hawaiian native plants that the I.U.C.N. has assessed so far are threatened with extinction, and the avian population is quickly disappearing, too—including the island’s famous, melodious, and brightly colored species of honeycreepers. Climate change has played a role, and so have feral cats, invasive rats, and other non-native species. But mosquitoes, which carry avian malaria, are a principal reason that just forty-two of more than a hundred species of native Hawaiian birds remain. Most of them are endangered.
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