An endangered animal is a species of plants or animals that is at a serious risk for extinction. Endangered species international states that there are 16,938 endangered species, and millions of species that still need to be assessed to know their status. An extinct species is a species that has no living members. The majority of species that has ever lived, which is more than 99% are now extinct. Species endangerment is causing problems for, in our ecosystems and biosphere, because of the way one animal dying off leads to a chain reaction of animals dying off. That one species dying off will affect the way other animals eat, because if the one animal that dies off is another animals primary source of food, now they’re not going to have food which could also cause them to become endangered, and the chain reaction will continue. Even though there are many causes for extinction, the impact of habitat loss is the major reason that animals are becoming endangered,and humans are the number one cause because the habitats being taken for human consumption.
Why Does Extinction Matter?
Extinction is a very serious matter, and we need to become educated more on why extinction matters or no one is going to realize how serious it really is. Animal extinction is the biggest threat to mankind. Right now we are currently living in the sixth great extinction also know as the holocene extinction. Some scientists believe that the existence of a world previous to ours destroyed by some sort of catastrophe, could also be whats is going on right now. Below is a table from National Geographic that details the classifications of endangered and extinct animals.
All living things are part of a complex, delicately balanced network called the biosphere. A biosphere is basically the sum of all life on earth, or all ecosystems. It is the global ecological system where all living things interact with each other interdependently. This makes protecting endangered species extra important because the removal of one species can start a chain reaction that will spread through the ecosystem. This means, a lot of times when an animal goes extinct, its absence inevitably affects other living organisms. The food web below shows the importance of a single species and emphasizes the interdependence that exists in an ecosystem. Imagine if the rabbit became extinct? The web would no longer be functional, because the rabbit is another animals food and removing that one animal could starve another animal, leaving the animals that ate the rabbit for food with less choices and could also cause that animal to go extinct. Food webs are great at showing how all species are energy, we have plants which are producers, animals that are primary consumers, and at the top of the food web are usually animals called predators, and include animals like tigers, lions, wolves, sharks, bears, and etc. All are very necessary for the food web. With some of these species going endangered and with other species already extinct, webs such as the food web and the species they support are having a harder and harder time surviving.
“At least 40 per cent of the world’s economy and 80 per cent of the needs of the poor are derived from biological resources. In addition, the richer the diversity of life, the greater the opportunity for medical discoveries, economic development, and adaptive responses to such new challenges as climate change.” (-The Convention about Life on Earth, Convention on Biodiversity website.) Biodiversity describes the variety of life on earth, including deserts, rainforests, species, and ecosystems. Every species no matter what size, plays an important part in their ecosystem. Ecosystem services, biological resources, and even human development are all dependent on biodiversity.
Natural and Unnatural Extinction
A lot of people wonder why its important to protect endangered species if it is “natural” for them to become extinct, when in fact when animals become extinct because of human development, the extinction is in no way “natural” although human development is not the only reason animals are going extinct. As the world changes every day, species are born and species die. What’s the difference between animals going extinct naturally, and animals going extinct unnaturally? Well an animal dying off on its own with no human activity involved, would be considered natural extinction, while the animals that became endangered or extinct due to human activity would be unnatural. For example an animal that dies of because of a sickness or disease would be a cause of animals dying off naturally, but if an animal is dying off because of something such as human development it would be classified as unnatural extinction.
How Are Species Becoming Extinct?
Housing, roads, pipelines and other industrial developments are all factors in habitat loss. Habitat loss is the threat to 85% of endangered species. There needs to be a strong plan to create protected areas or our important ecological habitats like lakes, forests and others will be lost. Having protected areas is one of the best ways for conserving a species and its habitat. These areas can help guard fresh water, food supplies and other needs these animals receive from their natural habitat. Canada had dedicated 9.4% of there land for protected areas for endangered animals, which is actually a lot more than most places, except the US who has spent billions of dollars on protected areas for endangered species. British Columbia has the most protected land with 13.1% conserved for endangered animals. These protected areas are ruled by the laws in each county and vary in different levels of protection. The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines a protected area as one in which which human occupation or at least the exploitation of resources is limited. These areas are very essential to saving endangered animals and plants. Without these areas we can have accidents like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, spilling 4.9 million barrels of oil, devastating a wide range of species, in water, in sky and on land. This is only one example of habitat destruction that happens every day.
The food and fashion industry is also responsible for the destruction of many species. Animals are killed merely for enjoyment, trophies and the hottest trends: fur coats, ivory jewelry etc. The laws in place to protect these species only make new and exciting challenges for poachers and raise product values for fashion designers, neglecting to protect the animals and creating a higher demand for their products.
Every day animals are being killed for food, which of course is a very normal thing to do, but why are we still killing endangered animals? The Chinese Giant Salamander is one endangered animal, hunted and served as a delicacy in China. The Bluefin Tuna is also an endangered, dinnertime favorite and is suffering a huge population decrease when it is killed and sold, especially in Japan. It is a favorite sushi roll. Some other animals hunted and killed for food include sharks, caribou, gorillas, and fin whales, etc. Since what we are doing now to stop these animals from being killed isn’t working, we need to come up with a new ideas before it’s too late. Things that can help is educating people on how bad killing these animals for food is, and how it is affecting how fast their becoming extinct.
Humans began using animals for clothing for hundreds of thousands of years, but the modern day fur trade is a lot different than it use to be. The fur trade sells cat fur for around 30 million dollars annually, which mostly includes endangered animals like leopards, lions, etc. The more endangered an animal becomes, the more rare it becomes. People pay high dollar for a rare snow leopard coat that sells for about sixty thousand dollars. Even though organizations might be trying to do something about pelt hunting by catching illegal poachers, the fine given of only a few thousand dollars, is nothing compared to the sixty thousand dollars for one pelt. With that being said, the black market for rare, exoctic furs is increasing every day, and there needs to be a big change before all of these animals are extinct. London has already started making changes, instead of the guards wearing real fur hats they are now making faux fur hats.
Current Endangered Species
The top ten endangered animals are the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, Amur Leopard, Javan Rhinoceros, Northern Sportive Lemur, Saola, Leatherback Sea-Turtle, Siberian Tiger, Chinese Giant Salamander, and the Little Dodo Bird. There are statistics showing that if these animals aren’t given protection they will be extinct within the next five years.
The destruction of forests have caused the population of these birds to decline really fast. This bird was even thought of to be extinct in the 20th century, but was rediscovered in 2005. It is believed that only a handful of these birds are still living. It mostly is found in North America.
This animal is on the edge of extinction, because of humans hunting and killing them for there spotted fur, one thousand dollars a pelt. With help from the Land of the Leopards National Park and other organizations, we can work on bringing them back. The Amur leopard is only found in small areas of south of Primorski Krai in eastern Russia.
Only 35 of these species are still surviving in one protected area, called the Ujong Kuno National Park. Natural disasters that happen in this area, including tsunamis and explosive volcanoes, continue to wipe out members of their species and their protected lands. They are found in Java at the tip of Indonisia.
Northern Sportive Lemur
The Northern sportive lemur is at risk due to habitat loss, from the slash and burn agricultural techniques used in their habitat area. They are also illegally hunted for food. These animals are found in Madagascar.
The remaining population of these animals is unknown, but could be anywhere from a couple hundred, to a few dozen. The reason these animals are going extinct is because of habitat loss, their forests disappearing for industrial development. This is forcing the animals into smaller habitats, which puts a red flag on their niche, making their habitat easily identified by hunters. The saola is found at the northern central border of Vietnam and Laos.
Chinese Giant Salamander
The biggest threat to the giant salamander is human consumption, killed for food and medicine. In China they are considered a luxury food item, and an important source for traditional medicine. This species is found in central China.
The Siberian Tiger, native to Asia, is the top predator in every ecosystem it inhabits. The main reason these tigers are endangered is because of their pelts and meat used for human fashion and consumption. Fewer than five hundred remain in the wild. The siberian tiger is found in the southeast region of Russia.
Leatherback Sea Turtle
Any Leatherback that survives into adulthood is overcoming enormous odds. Females lay around one hundred eggs, but by hatching time only about one or two remain. The eggs are mostly eaten by predators, mainly humans. Once hatched, the two remaining turtles face an extinction threat from plastic ingestion, human litter found in the ocean. This turtle can be found in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Ocean.
Offering A Solution
There are a lot of different programs to help protect wildlife habitats and most of these programs survive on donations and volunteers. Some of the most impactful programs are as follows:
The Nature Conservancy: Protects over 100 million acres of land, working with individuals, businesses, and local communities. Some of the strategies that they utilize to help protect wildlife include protecting private land, creating laws that help endangered animals, and funding different projects around the world.
World Wildlife Fund: This organization helps in nearly 100 different countries and has almost 5 million members worldwide. They aim to help protect wildlife lands and habitats, since their loss is the main reason for species extinction. They also are helping to stop pollution which is also one of the many causes for animal extinction. 79.4% of their expenses go towards conservation projects, 13.1% goes to fundraising and the last 7.4% goes towards administration.
Natural Resources Defense Council: This is an environmental action organization, that consists of 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals, and also a membership of around 1.3 million people. They work on putting an end to global warming, promoting clean energy, restoring and protecting wildland, and halting toxic pollutants from spreading in our oceans. 83.2% of their money goes towards conservation projects.
The Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is reaching out to people to help promote clean air, water conservation, removal of toxic waste, and other necessary processes for this planet, and all its animals.
The list of endangered animals, provided by many conservation organizations, continues to grow every day. In our world that is obsessed with expansion and profit, other species no longer have a place to live in a natural habitat and go extinct unnaturally very frequently. We face the loss of biodiversity, the most profitable business if we let these animals continue to die out as well as the breakdown of many fragile webs and ecosystems. Knowing that endangered animals is the biggest threat to mankind, is enough for me, to go out and do something about it, and donate to different funds to help save animals. As we went through some of the most well known endangered animals to animals you probably never knew existed, we learned how it’s affecting our ecosystems, and our world, I hope this was enough to educate you in how bad endangered animals are becoming, and make you want to help. Listed above are organizations that need volunteers and donations to stop the current wave of extinction. Will you help?