- CAPE TOWN, South Africa
(ENS) - The world is losing between 50,000 and 100,000 plant, insect and
animal species a year, Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey said Wednesday
at a lecture. This is much higher than a similar estimate Leakey gave in
1997. "Human activities are causing between 10,000 and 40,000 species
to become extinct each year," Leakey said then.
- Speaking at the South Africa Museum in Cape Town, Leakey
said the current rate of extinction of species has placed the planet in
serious danger, the South African Press Agency reported.
- Son of world famous palaeontologists Louis and Mary Leakey,
Richard Leakey was director of the National Museums of Kenya from 1968
to 1989. He directed the Kenya Wildlife Service from 1989 to 1994, where
he was successful in fighting elephant and rhino poaching and overhauling
Kenya's troubled park system.
- He resigned as director of the Kenya Wildlife Service
in 1994 following a dispute over political control, but was later reappointed.
He was Secretary General of the Kenyan opposition party Safina, and in
December 1997, he was elected to an opposition seat in the Kenyan Parliament.
- After serving for two years as head of the Kenyan Civil
Service, Leakey resigned in March.
- In 1993, a crash caused by a malfunction in the airplane
he was flying resulted in the loss of both his legs below the knee.
- It was not his own health but the health of the planet
Leakey spoke of in Cape Town. "The environment must be seen as a basic
human right," he said.
- Leakey said preserving land and conserving its wildlife
are an "absolute necessity" and people have to decide exactly
how much land should be allocated to conservation.
- Only the previous five periods in history of mass extinction
- the last being the death of the dinosaurs - showed the same rate of loss.
"At that rate we are probably approaching a point similar to mass
extinction," he said.
- At the 1997 meeting of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Leakey said, "Most of you know
as well as I do that biologists and conservationists are operating from
a position of ignorance: we don't actually know how many species there
really are on the planet, let alone on the African or any other continent.
The rate of extinctions is also unknown."
- "Scientists suggest that there are somewhere between
10 and 100 million species on the planet," he said.
- "It is the acceleration of species loss through
human activities today that is significant and unless the present trend
is reversed, the planet could lose approximately 55 percent of today's
species over the next 50 to 100 years. Such rapid catastrophic losses to
biodiversity have happened before, and these catastrophes have always had
far reaching consequences for the surviving species," Leakey warned
the CITES audience.