A poll launched by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), a network of 88 conservation groups including Fauna & Flora International, received more than 100,000 votes from the public. The idea behind the campaign was to generate support for AZE sites –locations identified by conservation scientists as the only place certain Endangered or Critically Endangered species are known to exist.
To choose the seven winners, votes were cast for 20 short-listed sites selected from the 587 AZE sites identified globally.
AZE chairman Mike Parr said, “Each of these sites holds a unique wonder of nature – be it charismatic bird, frog, turtle or mammal – that is worth protecting in perpetuity … today we are announcing Seven Wonders, (but) AZE sites are really 587 wonders around the world.”
The AZE 7 Wonders Sites and their AZE Species are:
Rodrigues Mainland, Mauritius – Rodrigues flying fox
The Rodrigues flying fox is most active at dawn and dusk when it leaves its cave or tree to search for its food, primarily fruit. Like most fruit bats, it does not possess the ability to echolocate, but relies on its sense of smell and large eyes that provide good vision in low light. It faces threats from habitat loss and hunting. Efforts are underway to breed the species in captivity. The Rodrigues Warbler also calls this site its only home. AZE member Bat Conservation International, along with Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, works to conserve bat populations around the world.
Abra Patricia, Peru – Long-whiskered owlet
The long-whiskered owlet feeds primarily on insects, and is one of the smallest owl species in the world. The owlet faces habitat loss due to timber extraction and agricultural expansion. The Ochre-fronted Antpitta also calls this site its only home. Private and community protected areas have been established by AZE members ECOAN and American Bird Conservancy to safeguard habitat for these species.
Río Saija, Colombia – Golden poison frog
The golden poison frog is one of the most toxic animals in the world; a two inch specimen has enough poison to kill ten people. The frog’s bright coloring, which varies from yellow to orange to pale green, serves as a warning to potential predators. Threats to the frog include deforestation for agriculture, and potentially a fungal-borne disease. This is one of two Endangered species found only here. A new reserve established by AZE member Fundación ProAves with help from Conservation International, World Land Trust, and Global Wildlife Conservation now protects a small population, but more help is needed.
Roti Island, Indonesia – Roti Island snake-necked turtle
The Roti Island snake-necked turtle is one of the most endangered turtles in the world. It has been severely diminished by the illegal pet trade. Efforts are underway to breed this species in captivity and to hopefully initiate a reintroduction programme. The Turtle Conservation Fund, Turtle Survival Alliance, and Chelonian Research Foundation are AZE members, and with the IUCN Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, are leading champions of turtle conservation efforts worldwide.
Poyang Hu, China – Siberian crane
It’s hard to ‘hide’ 3,000 tall, white Siberian cranes, but that’s what Poyang Lake did for many years until the wintering density of these spectacular birds there became widely known to ornithologists. The lake’s dramatic water fluctuations are key to the wetlands’ productivity, and provide habitat for more than 400,000 total waterbirds in winter. China’s finless porpoise is highly threatened and also found here. Impacts of dams in the catchment, sand dredging, and climate change threaten the lake. AZE member, the International Crane Foundation (ICF) is a leading champion of crane conservation efforts worldwide.
Raso da Catarina, Brazil – Lear’s macaw
The Lear’s macaw was down-listed from Critically Endangered to Endangered in 2009 thanks to intensive conservation action, though it still faces threats from the illegal global pet trade and habitat destruction for livestock grazing. A private reserve established by AZE member Fundação Biodiversitas with support from American Bird Conservancy includes a research station and guest lodge at this site.
Isla Robinson Crusoe, Chile – Juan Fernández firecrown
This 36-square-mile island off the Pacific coast of Chile is home to the Juan Fernández Firecrown’s only remaining population. This spectacular hummingbird continues to be threatened by habitat degradation from invasive plants and predation by domestic cats, although conservation measures are underway to address these issues. The island has a literary heritage as well, serving as inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Franzen’s account in the New Yorker, and Eric Dinerstein’s new book The Kingdom of Rarities. The non-profit organisation Juan Fernández Islands Conservancy/Oikonos is leading conservation efforts on the island.
For more information click through to AZE’s website.