A question frequently posed to Insectarium staff is how many of our invertebrates are endangered? In truth, the answer isn’t as simple as it might seem to be.
When we refer to a species as being “endangered” we mean it has received that designation by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN); a global organization that supports scientific research and field projects in more than 160 countries. The IUCN’s stated mission is to “influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and biodiversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable”. The IUCN publishes the Red List, the world’s most comprehensive listing of species and their conservation status.
IUCN scientists evaluate species based on criteria such as current population, breeding viability of and threats to the population, rate of decline and geographic distribution. With this information in hand the IUCN can choose not to list a species if they are confident about its future survival, or to give it one of seven official designations; Least Concern (LC), Near Threatened (NT), Vulnerable (V), Endangered (E), Critically Endangered (CR), Extinct in the Wild (EW) or Extinct (E). There are currently more than 54,000 species on the Red List. Two species maintained at the Insectarium are found on the IUCN’s Red List; The American Burying Beetle has been designated as Critically Endangered and the Red-kneed Tarantula has been designated as Near Threatened.
So when we’re asked, the simple answer is that 2 of our 58 species are “officially endangered”. Here’s where it gets less simple, the vast majority of our species originate from the tropical rainforests and those forests are under serious threat. Deforestation, the clearing of forested lands for sustenance farming, commercial agriculture or logging imperils all of the world’s tropical rainforests… It’s worth remembering that more than half of all plants and animals live in the tropical rainforests.
So while our Magnificent Flower Beetle may not be “officially” endangered it’s habitat within Africa’s Congo Rainforest certainly is. It’s a terrible reality that the majority of invertebrates displayed in the Insectarium are running out of living space and running out of time.