The IUCN estimates that 75% of the extinctions of birds and mammals since 1600 have been caused by human beings. Hunting is estimated to have caused 42% of the extinctions of birds and 33% of the extinctions of mammals. The current extinction rate among most groups of mammals is estimated to be 1,000 times greater than the extinction rate at the end of the Pleistocene epoch.
We have tended to think of wild living resources as existing outside of cities, but there is a growing recognition that urban environments will be more and more important in conserving biological diversity. This is partly because cities now occupy many sensitive habitats around the world, such as coastal and inland wetlands. It is also because appropriately designed parks and backyard plantings can provide habitats for some endangered species.
As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, this function of cities will become more important. The reasons that people want to save endangered species begin with human values, including values placed on the continuation of life and on the public-service functions of ecosystems. Among the most controversial environmental issues in terms of values are the conservation of biological diversity and the protection of endangered species. Science tells us what is possible with respect to conserving species, which species are likely to persist, and which are not.
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