Which animal would you save?
Have your say in this month’s reader poll.
Time is running out for many species, but conservation resources are more stretched than ever. So which species should we protect – and which can we least afford to lose?
Human population growth, over-consumption and climate change are driving many of the planet’s species to extinction before we even realise they exist. Yet the natural world remains a minority concern, shockingly low on the agenda of most mainstream politicians, economists, and business and civic leaders. The result is that our limited resources could force us to adopt the controversial concept of ‘conservation triage’. Unable to save everything, we may have to pragmatically choose to rescue only the most significant or useful species.
But what are those ‘significant’ organisms? Should we really be talking about habitats and ecosystems?
We asked a range of conservationists what they would choose to save.
Simon barnes Naturalist and author of Ten Million Aliens
“If I was allowed to be totally selfish, I would save lions because of the sense of affinity we have with their ad-hoc social structure, and the fear that they inspire. But, contradictorily, rather than save the savannah – where we feel at home – I would save the rainforest, for the reason that it is not very human-friendly.”
Dave Goulson Professor of biology, University of Sussex
“Maybe it is cheating to say insects, because they constitute two-thirds of known species on Earth – but insects would take up a lot less space on an ark than elephants. If I had a personal choice, the first insect on my ark would be the shrill carder bee, as a representative of small things in general.”
Glyn Davies Director of programmes, WWF-UK
“As a personal choice, I would preserve rainforest and coral reefs. But whether it’s habitat or species conservation, you have to deal with consumption and the steps in between, including trade and economic development. We need to take responsibility for our consumption.”
Peter Marren Naturalist and author
“Butterflies in Britain are extinction-prone – so if they thrive, habitat will be in pretty good nick for other species. Moths might be even an better bet as they cover so many ecological niches. By saving the world’s moths we would conserve a vast range of other wildlife, from spiders to beetles.”
Matt Shardlow Chief executive, Buglife
“In Britain, my number- one priority would be wildflower grassland. It’s not realistic to revert the whole landscape to low-impact farming, but if we could create corridors – ‘beelines’ – in the landscape it would benefit not just bees and bugs but birds and bacteria, too.”
The options listed below include important yet overlooked groups of animals and animals that have attracted hundreds of millions of pounds in a bid to save them.
Which animal, habitat or ecosystem would you save?