Despite what you might think, the EDGE of Existence is not a band, it is a conservation programme founded in 2007 by the Zoological Society of London. It is also the only global conservation initiative to focus specifically on threatened species that represent a significant amount of unique evolutionary history.
The programme identifies the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species using a scientific framework (read more about this in EDGE Science). EDGE species are at high risk of extinction and have few close relatives on the tree of life and are often extremely unusual in their genetics, the way they look, live and behave. The aim of the EDGE programme is to put these species on the map and catalyse conservation action to secure their future. So while the science may sound a bit complicated, the concept is simple: we want to make sure that the tree of life does not end up missing big branches.
What does EDGE do?
We are prioritizing species for conservation: So far we have established EDGE priority species lists for mammals, amphibians and corals reefs. Because of the strong scientific framework behind EDGE, applying the process to other taxa can often be quite difficult, especially when the evolutionary history of a group is not well known. We are currently working with partner scientists around the world on the development of EDGE birds, sharks, and gymnosperms.
We are raising awareness. With so many EDGE species out there we are aware that alone we would never be able to save them all. By raising awareness of EDGE species and their importance to conservation success we hope to inspire and support governments, peoples, and NGOs to conserve their local EDGE species.
We are training future conservation leaders. Through our EDGE Fellows programme we support and train local, early career conservationists to work on a priority EDGE species in their own country.
We are establishing targeted conservation projects: building long term conservation management strategies to secure the future of priority EDGE species that receive little or no conservation attention. Some of our current projects include:
The red slender loris, a small primate with excellent night vision that is endemic to the rainforests of Sri Lanka.
The Sagalla caecilian, a legless and tailless amphibian with eyes covered by skin which is only found in one hill in Kenya.
The pygmy hippo, a rare nocturnal forest creature. The pygmy hippopotamus in native to the forests and swamps of western Africa and unlike the common hippo, very little is known about this species.
The Chinese giant salamander– the largest amphibian species in the world, growing up to 1.8 metres, and can live for over 50 years.
What does ARKIVE have to do with this?
Despite EDGE species representing a unique and irreplaceable part of the world’s natural heritage, an alarming proportion are currently sliding silently towards extinction unnoticed. For example, 66% of EDGE priority mammals, 84% of priority EDGE amphibians and most EDGE coral reefs are receiving little or no conservation attention. Raising awareness is the key to making this change. We believe that images and videos are a great way of raising awareness, which is at the heart of ARKive’s mission. Thousands of people around the globe have been inspired to care for nature by watching wildlife documentaries. Great images and footage of EDGE species are crucial if we are to secure a future for these extraordinary species.
Daniela Biaggio, EDGE Intern