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The EDGE of Existence programme is a research and conservation initiative that focuses on species deemed to be the world’s most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE). Developed by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the programme aims to raise awareness of the world’s EDGE species, implement targeted research and conservation actions to halt their decline, and to train in-country scientists (called EDGE Fellows) to protect them now and in the future.
The EDGE programme seeks to:
- Identify the current status of poorly known, endangered, vulnerable and possibly extinct EDGE species.
- Develop and implement conservation measures for all EDGE species not currently protected.
- Support local scientists to research and conserve EDGE species worldwide.
Conserving EDGE species
The EDGE of Existence programme is centred on an interactive website that features information on the top 100 EDGE mammals and amphibians, detailing their specific conservation requirements. Ten focal species from each class are highlighted each year. Each of the top 100 species is given an EDGE-ometer rating according to the degree of conservation attention they are currently receiving, as well as its perceived rarity in its natural environment. Recent research suggests that 70% of the world’s top 100 EDGE mammals are currently receiving little or no conservation attention. The main goal of the EDGE of Existence programme is to ensure that appropriate research and/or conservation actions are implemented for each of these species by 2012.
EDGE research and conservation is carried out by ZSL researchers, a large network of partner organizations and in-country scientists. An integral part of the EDGE programme is the EDGE Fellows Scheme, which provides funding and support to in-country scientists for field research on the conservation status and threats facing a particular EDGE species. EDGE Fellows participate in all phases of a research project, from study design to data collection, analysis and interpretation and receive guidance and training in monitoring techniques, community outreach and education. Each project is focused on delivering a conservation action plan.
Once the action plan is completed, a meeting with local stakeholders is held to make additions and corrections to the document and to agree on a timeline and institutional responsibilities.
- 2007 - EDGE Fellows hired to do field research on the Bactrian camel, long-eared jerboa, and the pygmy hippopotamus.
- May 2007 - Expedition to Haiti to research the Hispaniolan solenodon.
- May 2007 - Expedition to Papua uncovered evidence that Attenborough's long-beaked echidna still lives in the Cyclops Mountains. Conservation plans are underway.
- August 2007 - Shortly after the baiji is declared extinct, a video appears that may show a living specimen, one of EDGE's selected mammals for this year.
- December 2007 - EDGE releases first footage of the long-eared jerboa ever captured in the wild from expedition to Mongolia.
- 2008 - Three new EDGE Fellows hired to research the bumblebee bat, the slender loris and the golden-rumped elephant shrew.
- January 2008 - EDGE begins its amphibians program by releasing the top 100 EDGE amphibians and naming ten focal species.
- March 2008 - An EDGE expedition to Liberia captures rare images of the wild pygmy hippopotamus within three days of installing a network of camera traps.
- January 2009 - Rediscovery of Hispaniolan solenodon in Haiti, followed by the establishment of a new UK Darwin Initiative funded Hispaniolan Endemic Land Mammals Project. This project seeks to enable the long-term conservation of the Hispaniolan solenodon and hutia through participatory species action planning, field research and monitoring, and improved public awareness. It is a collaborative project between Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Zoological Society of London, Sociedad Ornitologíca de la Hispaniola, Parque Zoológico Nacional, and the Oficina de Parques Nacionales de la Republica Dominicana.
- July 2010 - EDGE conservationists in Sri Lanka rediscover the Horton Plains slender loris (Loris tardigradus nycticeboides). Originally documented in 1937, there have only been four known encounters in the past 72 years. The rediscovery and capture by the team has resulted in the first detailed physical examination of this sub-species.
The programme is initially focusing on mammals and has recently incorporated amphibians but will expand to cover other groups, including birds, reptiles, fish and plants as the infrastructure and methods develop.
- Isaac NJB, Turvey ST, Collen B, Waterman C, Baillie JEM (2007). Reid W, ed. "Mammals on the EDGE: Conservation Priorities Based on Threat and Phylogeny". PLoS ONE. 2 (3): e296. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000296. PMC 1808424. PMID 17375184.
- "First known footage of wild long-eared jerboas". ZSL EDGE website. 2007-12-10.
- "Rare pygmy hippos caught on film". BBC News Online. 2008-03-10.