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An interview with Dr Jonathan Baillie:

Jonathan is a global authority on the status and trends of threatened species. He is head of the Zoological Society of London's Indicators and Assessments Unit and works with a large number of projects which focus on monitoring the status of rare and threatened species.
Dr Jonathan Baillie on location in Papua.
He led the recent expedition to Papua New Guinea that rediscovered Attenborough's Echidna.

Ecotourism. A good or bad thing?
When it is well regulated it can be great, but when it is not it can have a devastating impact on local communities, habitats, and threatened species.

You have what many people would consider the perfect job, how did you get it?

Why put so much effort into saving species that no one has heard of, and that are so few in number that they play no significant ecological role?
We could do without a large majority of species on the planet and still survive, but I for one do not want to live in such a world. I also think that all species have intrinsic value, not just those that contribute to ecosystem services.

Britain cut down all of its forests many years ago to make way for agriculture and industry, is it fair that we object so strongly to deforestation in countries like Brazil and Indonesia?
I think it is negligent to sit and watch species being driven to extinction, regards of where this is occurring on our planet.

The African elephant is listed as an EDGE species, and although their numbers have declined dramatically, there are still 500,000 elephants alive, and in many places there are probably more than there is now room for. Why is it seen as such a priority?
The African Elephant is listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN Categories and Criteria and it extremely evolutionarily distinct. It therefore makes the EDGE top 100 list. However, the EDGE project is focusing species that are currently receiving little or no conservation attention. Thus, we have not focused a lot of effort on this species. This does not mean that the African Elephant is secure; it simply means that there is a significant number of people involved with and concerned about elephant conservation. The African Elephant has been listed as threatened by IUCN (IUCN Redlist details) based on estimated declines over the next 75 years.

How is it possible, in this day and age, to still be making discoveries like the one recently made in southern Sudan (see www.wildlifeextra.com/sudan-wildlife.html ) where, apparently previously unknown, vast herds of wildlife as numerous as those on the Serengeti still exist?
There are roughly 2 million described species, but scientists estimate there are between 30 and 100 million species on the planet. Littlie is known about the biodiversity of vast tracks of the globe such as the Congo basin or the Papuan highlands. Unfortunately, some habitats are destroyed before we even know what was there.

Realistically, what chance is there for the Javan and Sumatran Rhino? There are probably less than 300 Sumatran rhinos left, split into half a dozen or so populations, with more and more of their habitat disappearing, and little hope of any captive breeding success. And they are much better off than the Javan rhino.
This is depressing, but we must never give up. If enough people were concerned about these species the trends could be reversed.

Looking at the photo on the EDGE website, are you a fan of the early work of the Bee Gees?
Strange, I always thought I looked more like Art Garfuncle – but yes – I have always been a fan of the Bee Gees – fortunately we do not have to worry about bringing them back from the EDGE.

Click here to go to the ZSL Edge website.