An international team of scientists said the parasites need to be protected. About a dozen leading parasite ecologists, including representatives from the University of Washington, published an article outlining a global plan for parasite conservation.
Unlike many mammals, fish, and birds, which are protected by international associations and activists, parasites are considered something to be eradicated.
However, only 4% of known parasites can infect humans: most actually perform important ecological functions, such as regulating populations in the wild.
Parasites are an incredibly diverse group of species, but as a society, we do not recognize this biological diversity as valuable. The purpose of this article is to emphasize that we are losing not just parasites, but the useful functions that they perform.
Bangs Wood, assistant professor at the University of Washington
The authors propose 12 goals for the next decade that can contribute to the conservation of parasite biodiversity through a combination of research, advocacy, and management.
Perhaps the most ambitious goal is to describe half of the world’s parasites over the next 10 years. “If a species doesn’t have a name, we can’t save it,” says Colin Carlson, project leader and assistant professor at Georgetown University. So far, scientists have investigated only 10% of all known parasites.
The researchers stress that none of the parasites that infect humans or pets are included in their conservation plan.