“A new United Nations report highlighting the devastating impact of humans on the natural world should serve as an urgent ‘wake-up call’ to policymakers in the Cayman Islands and across the globe, according to a host of environmental officials, researchers and non-profits.” James Whittaker reports for the Cayman Compass, writing about the most threatened animals on the planet (and in the Cayman Islands), including hawksbill turtles, Nassau grouper, and blue iguanas.
The UN report warned that up to 1 million species are on the brink of extinction as a direct result of human impacts. It highlighted the loss of natural habitats to development, as well as over-exploitation of wildlife from an ever-growing global population as among the key culprits. The report called for “transformative change” in the way people interact with nature, and recommended governments look beyond economic growth as a measure of national progress.
Officials and activists in Cayman warn the report has particular significance for these islands.
A number of iconic species found in the Cayman Islands, including hawksbill turtles, Nassau grouper and blue iguanas, are among the most threatened animals on the planet.
But officials say there are hundreds of lesser known species that are also on the brink of extinction. Almost half of Cayman’s 415 endemic plant species are critically endangered, according to the Department of Environment.
Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the DoE, said development represented the biggest threat to Cayman’s natural flora and fauna.
“We can’t fixate on what the most threatened species are because the fact of the matter is that at the rate we are converting natural ecosystems [into urban environments], all our endemic species are at risk,” she added.
She said it was vital that Cayman’s National Conservation Law, currently under review by government, was not diluted.
Fred Burton, head of the DoE’s terrestrial resources unit, said Cayman’s natural world is literally “disappearing before our eyes”.
He said it was essential to act now or risk losing the variety of plants, animals and ecosystems that make Cayman unique.
“If we don’t preserve these areas, they are not going to be there in a heartbeat,” he said. [. . .]
[Photo of hawksbill turtle from https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/hawksbill-turtle]