New Fund Aims to Prevent Extinction of Earth’s Rarest Species
Alliance for Zero Extinction announces $12-million pledge to protect last sites for endangered animals and plants
WASHINGTON, DC, September 13, 2021 — The Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE), an international consortium of conservation groups, is launching a $12-million, five-year initiative that aims to direct funding to endangered species that are at serious risk of extinction. The effort will focus on effectively conserving AZE-designated sites, which have been identified as places that hold the last-remaining populations of Earth’s most threatened plants and animals, such as the Anosy Mouse Lemur of Madagascar, the Thorny Tree Frog of Vietnam, and the Araripe Manakin and Lear’s Macaw, found only in Brazil.
“Protecting or otherwise conserving these sites is essential to preventing species extinctions,” says Mike Parr, Chair of AZE and President of American Bird Conservancy (ABC). “The sole populations of Earth’s most endangered species are found in 853 AZE sites globally — an area covering less than 0.2 percent of the globe.”
Contributing the initial $10 million to this initiative, Rainforest Trust seeks to expand protection of these important sites for biodiversity. “There has never been a better nor more urgent time to save these species from extinction,” says James Lewis, Vice President of Conservation at Rainforest Trust. “Resources are being mobilized and governments are making commitments to biodiversity conservation at the World Conservation Congress and Convention on Biological Diversity. There is a particular focus on protected areas right now with inspiring initiatives such as 30×30, a commitment by governments to protect 30 percent of their land and seas by 2030. These efforts are absolutely critical for our planet’s wellbeing, and we must ensure that AZE sites are seen as a top priority.”
AZE sites are a subset of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) that are urgently in need of effective conservation to prevent species extinctions. A recent study showed the effectiveness of protecting AZE sites to avoid extinctions. However, 36 percent of AZE sites remain completely uncovered by protected areas — despite evidence that creation and management of protected areas for ultra-rare species is the conservation action most critical to reducing extinction risk.
Many organizations and institutions have made great strides in protecting AZE species over the past few years. The AZE initiative seeks to expand the effective conservation of AZE sites globally, through protected-area establishment, Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) declaration, or other means.
“This pledge to direct $12 million towards AZE sites demonstrates the critical value of global partnerships,” says Lewis. “We hope in the coming months to grow this commitment and engage the global community in effectively protecting these sites. This is a clear call to action, to communities, conservationists, governments, and global funders — we have an incredible opportunity to turn the table for these species, so let’s not lose it.”