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Threatened, endangered, extinct

[ 2010-08-17 10:04]     字号 [] [] []  
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Threatened, endangered, extinct

Reader question:

Please explain “threatened species” in the following:

Florida’s black bears are fascinating animals that once roamed the state in large numbers. Today, it is designated as a threatened species by the State of Florida.

Is it the same as “endangered species”?

My comments:

Yes, it is.

The two phrases are exactly the same except that “threatened” sounds less formal, more colloquial, everyday. Endangered, on the other hand, if full of “danger” and seriousness.

In other words a “threatened species” is simpler and easier to grasp for the average man whereas “endangered species” is a phrase probably all professional people prefer.

Otherwise a threatened species and an endangered one are the same.

They by and large face the same problem, or fate: extinction.

By definition, threatened or endangered species are fast dwindling in number and are “vulnerable to extinction in the near future”, according to Wikipedia. “World Conservation Union…is the foremost authority on threatened species, and treats threatened species not as a single category, but as a group of three categories: vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered, depending on the degree to which they are threatened.”

By that token, we can probably say that the above-mentioned Florida black bear is vulnerable – threatened but not facing immediate extinction. The Chinese giant panda is endangered, meaning their situation is serious. The Yangtze dolphin, on the other hand, is critically endangered – there’s not been an official sighting of this sleek swimmer in the wild in five years, according to a report I saw the other day on Sina.com.

And of course, to be officially declared extinct, that is dead and gone as dinosaurs are, a species need to go unspotted anywhere for 50 years.

Anyways, threatened, endangered and extinct are the three words often used to describe species that are dying out or have died out due to their fast changing environment, loss of their natural habitat and, increasingly, over population and encroachment of humans.

Here are media examples:

1. The more general term used by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) for species at risk of extinction is threatened species, which also includes the less-at-risk category of vulnerable species together with endangered and critically endangered. IUCN categories include:

Extinct: Last remaining member of the species has died, or is presumed beyond reasonable doubt to have died. Examples: Javan Tiger… Dusky Seaside Sparrow.

Extinct in the wild: captive individuals survive, but there is no free-living, natural population. Examples: Alagoas Curassow, Dromedary.

Critically endangered: faces an extremely high risk of extinction in the immediate future. Examples: Huxley Panda, Mountain Gorilla….

Endangered: faces a very high risk of extinction in the near future. Examples: Dhole, Blue Whale… Giant Panda….

Vulnerable: faces a high risk of extinction in the medium-term. Examples: Cheetah… Polar Bear….

Conservation dependent: The following animals are not severely threatened, but must depend on conservation programs. Examples: Spotted Hyena, Blanford’s fox, Leopard Shark, Black Caiman, Killer whale.

Near threatened: may be considered threatened in the near future. Examples: Blue-billed Duck, Solitary Eagle, Small-clawed Otter, Maned Wolf, Tiger Shark, Okapi.

Least concern: no immediate threat to the survival of the species. Examples: Nootka Cypress, Wood Pigeon, White-tailed Mongoose, House Mouse, Wolverine.

- Wikipedia.

2. Last week an event took place that hasn't occurred since 2000: a living author appeared on the cover of Time magazine. The recipient of this accolade was novelist Jonathan Franzen, best known – until now – for his multi-generational epic about a midwestern family, The Corrections, which came out in the week of 9/11 and was one of the most talked about (and bestselling) novels of the last decade.

It has taken Franzen nine years to complete his follow-up, Freedom, which is about to be published in the US. (It doesn’t hit UK bookshops until late September.) Understandably, Franzen hasn’t significantly departed from the template that served him so well last time. The novel is another multi-generational epic that microscopically examines the tensions within an outwardly successful but inwardly unhappy midwestern family. There are striking plot similarities: both books feature get-rich-quick schemes and copious extra-marital affairs. It has been suggested, in fact, that the main difference between the two is that, while the family in The Corrections had three children, the family at the centre of Freedom – the Berglunds – have just two.

Time's decision to make Franzen its cover star is intriguing, for reasons both obvious and less straightforward. Ever since The Corrections appeared, Franzen, who is 50, has been regarded as one of America’s most important novelists, a leading member of the generation down from the “old guard” of Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and John Updike that dominated US fiction from the 1950s until at least 2000. The appearance of a new novel by him, especially after such a long absence, is a major literary event, which it is appropriate for Time to honour.

Yet at the same time it was hard to miss the awkward, almost apologetic tone of Time’s coverage, as if the magazine’s editors were conscious of the fact that they were doing something irregular in giving such prominence to an unashamedly highbrow writer, one who has, moreover, often been criticised in the past for being aloof, curmudgeonly and elitist. (His sniffy response when The Corrections was selected for Oprah’s Book Club led to Oprah Winfrey rescinding her invitation.) Underneath the words “Great American Novelist”, Time’s strapline ran: “He’s not the richest or most famous. His characters don't solve mysteries, have magical powers or live in the future. But in his new novel, Jonathan Franzen shows us all the way we live now.” It isn’t hard to unpick the subtext here: “Remember, folks, there’s such a thing as serious literature; it has little to do with Dan Brown or Harry Potter, and these days most of us tend to ignore it, but it’s actually kind of important.”

The first few paragraphs of Time’s profile continued in the same vein: they described Franzen standing next to an otter-filled estuary while indulging his favourite non-literary pastime, birdwatching, near his summer home in Santa Cruz, California. “Otters,” the article’s author, Lev Grossman, writes, are a “legally threatened species”. And in case readers don’t get the point being made, he adds: “Franzen is a member of another perennially threatened species, the American literary novelist.”

- Jonathan Franzen picks up the torch for US literary tradition, The Observer, August 15, 2010.