Like the dodo bird, the dinosaur and small pox (except in a few laboratories), every species that lives and has ever lived will eventually cease to exist in its entirety. So why should we care about extinction?

This is a complicated question and it is often obscured by being overly philosophical and using platitudes (like what I wrote above) to downplay human-caused extinction. But extinctions caused by humankind are estimated to occur at a rate 100-1,000 times that of the Earth’s average extinction rates. Furthermore, biologists have warned of humans causing their own extinction, along with (and related to) the extinctions of countless other species that ecosystems (and in turn we) depend on.

So it’s not just about saving polar bears. Concern over extinctions can relate to other things like economics and the future of food security.

On that note, here is a list of 5 species in Asia currently facing extinction.

South Asian vultures

In the last 10 years 99% of vultures in South Asia have died out. No bird species has ever declined so rapidly in known history. And according to scientists it’s all because of an anti-inflammatory drug (which I used to take myself for back pain) called diclofenac. Though designed for humans and illegal for veterinary use since 2006, cows in India are still given diclofenac. Those that perish in the open are eaten by vultures who then die from kidney failure within 10 days. 4-5 million South Asian vultures down to a few thousand in just 10 years.

Read more in the Khaleej Times.

Indus dolphin, pic: www.abc.net.au (via flickkerphotos)

Ganga river dolphin

China’s Yangtze river dolphin is already history and now the another of the world’s 3 remaining fresh water dolphin species faces the same plight. Being revered by Hindus and named India’s national animal in 2009 has not helped the Ganga dolphin, which numbers less than 2,500 in South Asia. If you think that’s bad, one of the other 3 fresh water dolphin species, the Indus dolphin, only numbers around 1,100. These blind dolphins are dying principally due to the use of nylon fishing nets and pollution, but also because of irrigation, which makes the rivers too shallow for the dolphins to navigate properly.

Read more in China dialogue.

Asian primates

OK this is not just one species and not all primates in Asia face extinction. However, 9 species of Asian primates do. The culprit in Southeast Asia is the wildlife trade, but deforestation and hunting also play a part.

From the Canadian Press:

More than half of the world’s 633 types of primates are in danger of becoming extinct because of human activity such as the burning and clearing of tropical forests, the hunting of primates for food and the illegal wildlife trade.

I admit, the “5 Asian species” part of the title is misleading. But in fact, things are much worse than the title suggests. Just how much worse? Read on…

The Great Barrier Reef

I know, it’s not a species, but a lot of species depend on it. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef supports a staggering amount of endangered species, some of which may be endemic. Sea turtles, salt water crocodiles, whales, dolphins, fish, plants, sea horses, etc. Half of the coral of the reef has died off over the past 27 years, due to cyclones, a certain star fish species, which saw its population explode due to agricultural runoff, and coral bleaching. Dark days indeed.

Read more here.

turtle, Great Barrier Reef, pic: University of Denver (Flickr CC)