Animals and plants are not only threatened with extinction in tropical forests and icy polar regions - several thousand species are also in danger on our doorstep. The situation is serious, says the general director of the Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Klement Tockner, of the German Press Agency. "We have little time to take countermeasures."
According to the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN), there are more than 71,500 species of animals, plants and fungi in Germany. Around 9000 of them are endangered. On the occasion of Species Conservation Day, which marks the 50th anniversary, Tockner points out that these are only known species. About a third of the species in this country is not yet known. "Species die out before we even discover them," says the ecologist. "Once lost, always lost."
"We are experiencing the greatest extinction of species since the end of the dinosaurs," says Albert Wotke, program manager for area conservation in Germany at the environmental organization WWF. If nothing changes, a million species worldwide could be extinct by the end of the century. A nationwide red list by the BfN records the degree of endangerment of over 30,000 species in Germany. A selection of five endangered and declining species:
Feldhamster (Cricetus cricetus)
The cute-looking rodent with the typical hamster cheeks is threatened with extinction. With the intensive use of agricultural land, a drastic decline in habitats and thus population numbers began. According to estimates by the Nature Conservation Union (Nabu), there are only 10,000 to 50,000 field hamsters left in Germany today. By the way, the golden hamster is another species that originally comes from Syria.
According to the WWF, the cuckoo's parasitic breeding behavior threatens to be fatal in the climate crisis. Spring is coming earlier and earlier in this country. When the cuckoo returns from its winter quarters in Africa, many birds are already busy feeding their offspring - so they no longer breed. According to the WWF, the cuckoo finds fewer nests in which to lay its eggs. The songbird with the striking call is becoming rarer, in Germany it is classified as endangered.
Schweinswal (Phocoena phocoena)
It is the only whale native to Germany - and is highly endangered. Greenpeace estimates that there are around 20,000 harbor porpoises in the North Sea and only 500 in the Baltic Sea. The fast swimmers with round heads and blunt snouts often die as bycatch in fishing nets. According to the German Wildlife Foundation, they are also very sensitive to underwater noise caused by large ships. This can damage their hearing and they lose their bearings.
It is one of the most important pollinators. In addition to wild plants, bumblebees pollinate tomatoes, aubergines and blueberries, for example. According to the WWF, there are 250 species worldwide - but it's getting too warm for the furry insects. Because of global warming and the destruction of their habitats, the existence of the bumblebee is threatened in several ways. The common bumblebee (Bombus distinguendus), once widespread in Germany, is classified as critically endangered.
Most species of the light blue spring flower are not threatened. But the Lake Constance forget-me-not (Myosotis rehsteineri), which only occurs around Lake Constance and Lake Starnberg, is threatened with extinction. The habitat of the rare plant is changing significantly and is becoming smaller and smaller - for example due to the development of riverbank areas.
The climate crisis and the global extinction of species are closely intertwined. According to the WWF, the average surface temperature of the earth has risen by around one degree Celsius since industrialization. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assumes that global warming is having an even more drastic impact on terrestrial and marine ecosystems than originally assumed. Added to this is the human use of the habitats of many species - things are getting tight for many animals and plants.
But there is reason for hope. "Our ecosystems are not particularly species-rich, but they are very robust," says Christof Schenck, Managing Director of the Frankfurt Zoological Society (FZS). And protection of species is successful: the white-tailed eagle was found in only four pairs in the Federal Republic, in the GDR there were about 60 pairs. According to the Ministry of the Environment, 850 couples live in Germany today. The crane, which now breeds around 10,000 pairs in Germany, was almost extinct in Germany.
The World Conservation Summit in Montreal, Canada, has conservationists and researchers looking to the future with some optimism. In December last year in Montreal, the international community agreed to place at least 30 percent of the world's land and sea areas under protection by 2030.