The long-beaked echidna does not share much in common with the golden-rumped elephant shrew, although both are endangered. Despite living on the edge of extinction, however, they're both largely overlooked by the conservation world--mostly because they're weird.
But thanks to a new program from the Zoological Society of London, a homely face will no longer be a barrier to conservation protection. The Edge of Existence program, which aims to protect "Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered" (EDGE) animals, offers vital attention to a prioritized list of the not-so-cute but critically endangered creatures, a whopping 70 percent of which are largely ignored by the conservation community.
"We will be working to protect some of the world's most extraordinary species, all of which are teetering on the 'edge' of extinction," says Jonathan Baillie, director of the program. "It is a tragedy that many EDGE species are being ignored and are slipping silently towards extinction."
EDGE species rate high on a scale that combines endangered status with a Species' "Evolutionary Distinctiveness," or genetic uniqueness. A species with a high "ED" score, says Carly Waterman of the EDGE program, "has been evolving independently for a long time and thus has few if any close relatives. Its loss would result in a greater loss to biodiversity than...