Extinction is forever – it’s a phrase that’s so familiar it’s probably lost its impact. Conservationists have to win every fight, because losing is permanent. It’s obvious, but true. If we don’t win the fight to save the orang utan, for example, then we will have lost an extraordinary, intelligent and fascinating creature – forever. We will have lost another piece of our world, too. How many pieces can we afford to lose before it starts to fall apart?

In fact, we may already have lost the fight to save the orang utan – at least in the wild. It’s likely that orangs will be extinct in the wild in our lifetimes, surviving only in sanctuaries and zoos.

Extinct in the Wild is a phrase that I didn’t know before I joined the Zoo. It’s one of the classifications used in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List – the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species.


The list uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity. The aim of the Red List is to convey the urgency and scale of conservation problems to the public and to policy makers, and to motivate the global community to try to reduce species extinctions.

There are nine categories in the IUCN Red List system: Not Evaluated, Data Deficient, Least Concern, Near Threatened, Vulnerable, Endangered, Critically Endangered, Extinct in the Wild, Extinct. You don’t want to be anywhere on that list, but you especially don’t want to be near the urgent end of it. Because, like they say, extinction is forever.

By Philip Knowling, Press Officer, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park & Living Coasts..

Quotes Loads to see and do, for a full day out. Quotes