That question can take you in many directions, but this week a group of 8,000+ scientists asked it in regard to the 100 most threatened species on the planet.

The team of researchers, working for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), released a report called Priceless or Worthless? In addition to being online and in print, the report was presented at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in South Korea on Tuesday.

The report (a must read!) lays out the statistics of these rapidly declining plants and animals and explains why it’s important to save them, regardless of how much they help the human race.

“The donor community and conservation movement are leaning increasingly towards a 'what can nature do for us' approach, where species and wild habitats are valued and prioritized according to the services they provide for people,” says Jonathan Baillie, Director of Conservation at the Zoological Society of London. “This has made it increasingly difficult for conservationists to protect the most threatened species on the planet… While the utilitarian value of nature is important, conservation goes beyond this. Do these species have a right to survive or do we have a right to drive them to extinction?”

As Baillie implies, humans are at the root of most of these threats. The report describes funding, policy, legal and even marketing standpoints of why we need to and how we can save these species.

And while you can see galleries of these threatened species on National Geographic, New Scientist and Wired, really, go read and look at the report online. The images are phenomenal and the urgency of the risks of extinction leap from the page. (Did we mention it’s a must read?)

From plants and fungi to amphibians and mammals, all life is valuable. A quote from Georgina Mace in the report perhaps explains it best:

Every living species represents one unique pathway to success, developed over millions of years. What we lose with each passing species can never be replaced.

Image: Dr. Richard Bartlett/Wikipedia

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