Why the need to monitor endangered species? We face an unprecedented crisis in the loss of biodiversity on our planet. UNEP, the United Nations Environment Program, estimates that between 150 and 200 species are currently being lost every day. The renowned American evolutionary biologist, E.O, Wilson estimated that by 2100, half of all our current species will be lost if we continue as we are. This mass extinction is due, in large part, to unsustainable methods of production and consumption. We estimate that there may be as many as 100 million different species on this planet, of which only 1.7 million have been identified.
The Global Mammal Assessment, presented in 2008 by more than 1800 research groups in 130 countries indicated that between 25 and 36% of all mammal species may be in danger of extinction, due to various threats ranging from habitat destruction or ecosystem change such as reduction of prey species, illegal poaching and climate change.
A further 836 species have such a paucity of data on numbers and distribution that we are unable to ascertain their status. This is a potentially catastrophic change to the world as we know it today. Many of these endangered species are flagships for their ecosystems. If they go, our motivation to protect their environments will be much reduced.
However, there are many approaches to a successful conservation strategy. The top priority, most conservationists would now agree, is firstly to secure and protect the natural habitat required by each species in as pristine an ecological state as possible, and then secondly to monitor the progress of species within that habitat. We urgently need methods for monitoring which will be cost-effective, objective and non-invasive, to give us the data we need on the numbers and distribution of these endangered species.