Not easy eating green: Herbivores most at extinction risk

Seth Borenstein

AP – Although scientists often worry most about the loss of the world’s predators, a comprehensive new study finds that plant-eating herbivores are the animals most at risk of extinction.

About one in four species of herbivores, 25.5 per cent, are considered threatened, endangered or vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the world’s scientific authority on extinction risk, according to a study in Wednesday’s journal Science Advances.

By comparison, 17.4 per cent of the predators and 15.8 per cent of omnivores were at risk, said study lead author Trisha Atwood, an ecologist at Utah State University.

Researchers analysed data for 22,166 species of animals with backbones, including the type of animal (reptile, bird or mammal), geographic location, habitat and size. And in just about every way examined, they found plant-eaters were the most at risk, especially in forest ecosystems.

Female northern white rhinos are fed some carrots by a ranger in their enclosure at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya. PHOTO: AP