The year’s new species lists are generally released to the public on May 23rd in honor of the birthday celebrating Carolus Linnaeus. Overshadowed by this festivity is the growing list of extinct species. Adding insult to injuries, sometimes pet lovers are to blame. Can they also turn the tide?
New Species List and the Recently Extinct Species it Overshadows
At the top of the list(1) of new species is the Indonesian psychedelic frogfish (Histiophryne psychedelica), which is closely followed by the largest golden orb web-spinning spider (Nephila komaci) that produces webs in excess of three feet across.
On the flipside of the celebration is the Alaotra Grebe (Tachybaptus rufolavatus), which was officially listed as extinct in 2010(2). The introduction of a new species into the bird’s habitat led to the deaths of the animals.
Irresponsible Pet Ownership and (soon to be) Extinct Species
Pet ownership has the power to adversely affect the habitats of various species. For example, the release of unwanted exotic pets — or even just pets not native to your neck of the woods — into the wild has a huge, incalculable impact on the environment.
Should the pets survive and thrive, they can easily crowd out other species living in the habitat(3). Since it is possible that domesticated animals carry certain diseases, releasing them into the wild puts animals and plants at risk of infection.
Can Responsible Pet Ownership Turn the Tide?
The rapidly declining numbers of the Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) place the animals in danger of becoming the next extinct species. In a highly publicized effort to halt the decline, the Indonesian government has decided to sell some of the captive-bred specimens as pets(4). At a cost of $100,000 per pair, the government hopes to:
- Raise funds for the preservation of the species
- Provide a high enough stake that only serious pet lovers will make the investment and therefore will provide proper care to the animals
- Bank on the prestige ownership of these animals affords that it highlights the need to save these animals from becoming extinct
Although an interesting proposition, another animal that teeters on the edge of extinction — Kleinmann’s Tortoise (Testudo kleinmanni)(5) – is a testament to what occurs when a pet becomes so popular that it is taken from the wild to meet a growing demand of hobbyists. Is it possible that Sumatran tigers could follow suit?
Of course, unless humans want to see these animals’ names under next year’s list of recently extinct species, do we not owe it to the animals to give pet owners a chance to do right by them and perhaps help the numbers to increase in captivity?