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Deciding Which Endangered Species to Save

Desperate times call for desperate conservation measures, like advocating eating rare birds or endorsing “survival of the cutest.”

The disappearing Dartmoor Hill Pony. Photo by Herbythyme via Wikimedia commons

This is not a good era to care about animals, unless you enjoy heartbreak. The latest count on California’s delta smelt, for instance, was a total of six fish, making it functionally extinct in the California Delta despite two decades under a recovery plan. Due to humanity’s actions, worldwide extinction rates are ballooning at such a quick clip that without some drastic reversal, this century will bring the sixth mass extinction in the history of the world. But there are also success stories amid all the death and sadness, as more energy and money pour into conservation efforts. Countries, organizations, and individuals are tuning in to the impending dangers of rapid biodiversity loss. Not all species can be saved from extinction, though, which leaves us in a multi-headed Sophie’s Choice of sorts: How do we pick which species to save?

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