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Scientists Rush To Find (And Name) Species To Save Them

A picture of a baby olinguito.
Juan Rendon
Saving Species

Species are going extinct about 1,000 times faster than they should be because their habitat is being destroyed. That's according to new research led by Duke University.

Conservation Ecology Professor Stuart Pimm said the worse news is that nearly 90 percent of the species are unknown to scientists.

Pimm runs an organization called Saving Species that helps connect conservation programs with donors, to help slow the destruction of key habitat. Their web site uses data maps to identify high concentrations of species at risk of extinction.

“We know we can't save everything. Funds for conservation are limited,” said Pimm. “So it's important that we allocate our limited resources to protecting and restoring the most vital places.”

For example, SavingSpecies is working to protect the olinguito, the first carnivore discovered in 30 years. Its habitat in the western Andes is also home many other plants and might host many species scientists don’t yet know about.

Pimm says he's optimistic that growing species databaseswill close the gap in scientists' knowledge of species, and more effectively slow extinction rates.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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