The city of Bangkok and the staff at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center can be proud of the professional job done in hosting more than 2,000 delegates from 170 countries at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) meeting that ended on Thursday. Likewise, the delegates and Cites officials deserve credit for the progress they made in establishing protective measures to prohibit or limit the trade in endangered species. These measures strike out at those who shamelessly profit from the often cruel poaching of wild animals and the subsequent trade in them and their parts.
Yet the biggest threat by far to the planet's biodiversity is the "collateral damage" of development, which wipes out and pollutes natural habitats, and in this we are all guilty to an extent. Scientists tell us that humans are currently causing the greatest mass extinction of species since that of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If present trends continue, it is estimated that 20% to 50% of all species on Earth will be extinct in less than 100 years as a result of habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species and, last but not least, climate change. Plant life is not excluded. A recent study of plant diversity concluded that at least one in eight known plant species is threatened with extinction.
A large majority, nearly 70%, of the more than 400 scientists who participated in a survey conducted by the American Museum of Natural History in New York said they believed a "mass extinction" was under way, and nearly all attributed it to human activity, especially the destruction of plant and animal habitats.
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