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Like all mammals, we humans are warm-blooded, hairy vertebrates who produce milk for our young. Human cultures around the world tell stories that recognize the similarities between humans and other mammal species, from the Ojibwe origin myth that places the wolf as man’s partner at the beginning of time, to Juan Oso, the half-man, half-Andean bear of South America.
The mammal class includes iconic species such as the grey wolf, blue whale, and mountain lion, as well as lesser-known but equally fascinating species such as the colony-living prairie dog and the pronghorn, the second-fastest land mammal after the cheetah. Even though we have mapped and explored most of the world, we are still discovering new species of mammal, for example, the giant woolly rat discovered in a volcanic crater in Borneo in 2009.
But in many parts of the world, we are having trouble sharing space with other mammal species, despite being their close relatives. Habitat loss is the greatest threat to mammal species worldwide, affecting around 2,000 species. Harvesting for food, fur, or medicine is the next most serious threat, affecting almost 1,000 species, particularly in Asia. All known mammal species have been evaluated by the IUCN, and of those 5,490 species, 1,130 were considered threatened in 2010 - nearly one in five. If we want to continue to share our world with these species, whose lives and actions so often give us insight into our own natures, we must act quickly to save them from extinction.