About 140 years ago, Charles Darwin wrote in his book The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex the following prediction: “The slowest breeder of all known animals, namely the elephant, would in a few thousand years stock the whole world.” (Darwin, 1871). Unfortunately, primarily due to human activities, this prediction will probably not come true. Sadly, not only elephants face the risk of extinction. The number of species listed as endangered is on the rise. The Species Survival Commission (SSC) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) continuously monitors the planet’s fauna and flora and launches the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (http://www.iucnredlist.org). As of the end of 2010, there were 5491 species of mammals described (IUCN, 2010). Of these, 1,131 species (21%) are now listed as endangered to some degree. In addition, there are 324 species listed as near threatened and another 836 species for which data is deficient and thus could be at risk. Adding all these numbers together, about 42% of the planet’s mammalian species are at some level of threat for extinction. The list also reports on 76 species (1.4%) of mammals that became extinct in recent years and two more species that are extinct in the wild and whose survival completely depend on ex situ breeding programs. The situation is not distinctively different in other classes of the vertebrata subphylum or in the other subphylums of the animal kingdom. If anything, it is even worse for some such as the reptiles (21% endangered), amphibians (30%), fish (21%) or among the invertebrates: insects (22%), mollusks (41%), crustaceans (28%), anthozoa (corals and sea anemones; 27%) or arachnids (58%). With each extinct species, the stability of the entire ecological system surrounding it and the food chain of which it is an integral part is shaken. Such shaking may lead to the co-extinction of dependent species (Koh et al., 2004).

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