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Field study stars rock the animal world

/ Source: Discovery Channel

To mark 20 years of field study, Conservation International's Rapid Assessment Program has just named the Top 20 stars of the program's history. According to Conservation International, these species are "some of the most biologically surprising, unique, or threatened discoveries" from their teams’ surveys.

The director of the group's RAP program is Leeanne Alonso, who helped to select the top 20.

“It’s been an amazing adventure,” Alonso was quoted as saying in a press release. “Despite the pressures we put on nature, it continues to mystify, inspire and teach us with a wealth of hidden treasures and ecosystem services that people rely on, and that we’re still only beginning to understand.”

Alonso, who has coordinated and led surveys for the past 13 years, has also just edited a new book, “Still Counting...” It revisits RAP expeditions that occurred during the past two decades. During that time, the researchers completed 80 surveys in 27 countries. Most turned up incredible, and often bizarre, species that we've frequently informed you about at Discovery. Many are endangered and in places that are threatened by pollution, habitat loss and other human-related problems.

Conservation International President Russ Mittermeier, who went on many of the surveys, says that in doing the RAP work, “we have truly laid the groundwork for the future and created constituencies that are already carrying the cause of conservation forward.”

"In spite of all that we have learned, there is still much to do," he added. "The pressures on the countries richest in biodiversity have not diminished, and many regions still remain unexplored. Knowledge has already helped to conserve some of the world’s highest priority sites and regions, and knowledge will continue to be our strongest tool in ensuring the future of life on our planet.”

Did you know, for example, that there are about 1.9 million documented species of animals, but it's estimated that up to 30 million species of organisms are yet to be discovered and scientifically described? Many disappear before scientists ever have the chance to discover and study them. This unfortunate process is known as Centinelan extinction.

The good news is that the 20 RAP species now have an improved chance of survival, given CI's involvement.

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