A Guide to Endangered and Threatened Animals
What You Need to Know
Animals are an important part of our ecosystem. Unfortunately, many of these animals that play a big role in maintaining nature’s balance, are extinct, or are on the verge of becoming extinct. While many factors contribute to this, including nature itself, the deliberate human interference in the form of hunting, habitation, pollution, and deforestation is certainly the most drastic of all. Did you know that every year, over 30,000 elephants are poached for their ivory? In fact, just 4% of wild tigers remain today on Earth compared to a century ago! These shocking facts call for the need to spread awareness about how these animals contribute towards maintaining our nature’s balance and how losing them can cause irreversible damage to our planet’s ecosystem.
What is an Endangered Species?
Species that are dangerously close to extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range are listed as “endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These animals are so close to extinction that they require help and protection from various conservation groups, as well as care from wildlife veterinarians, in order to survive. Endangered species are automatically protected by prohibitions of several types, including harming, killing, harassing, or collecting.
Some of the species on the endangered list include Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, blue whales, giant pandas, orangutans, and many more.
What is a Threatened Species?
Species that are likely to become an endangered species in the coming future throughout all or a significant portion of its range are listed as “threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). These animals don’t receive as much protection or help as ones on the endangered list, but are still closely watched in case population numbers start to drop to where the species can be considered endangered. A species considered threatened still has a chance to survive without aid, as long as impacts being made by humans to their habitats are reduced or halted.
Some of the species on the threatened list include African elephants, giant tortoises, great white sharks, polar bears, and red pandas.
What happens after a species is listed as “Endangered” or “Threatened”?
When a species gets listed as Endangered or Threatened, it is protected by federal law and can’t be killed, harassed, trapped, moved, or wounded by people. The primary goal of this classification is to restore sustainable populations of these species so that they can be removed from the list eventually.
Currently, there are over 1,300 endangered or threatened species in the United States.
How do species become “Endangered” or “Threatened”?
As mentioned before, human influence is the primary factor that has put these animals in danger. Our actions such as hunting for recreation and money, habitat destruction, or the introduction of non-native invasive species, put them at risk and harm their existence. Though in the past, nature itself has also contributed to the extinction of animals (Dinosaurs, for example) human intervention is more responsible for rapidly growing mortality rates of many species on Earth.
Most of these animals have gone through several years of traumatic changes to their habitats and witnessed their population dwindle from several to just a few. The poachers sell them to make money. Moreover, the rarer a species becomes, the higher the price it fetches for poachers. As a result, more and more animals are killed off by the poachers to serve their greed and fulfill the growing demand of wealthy people who don’t mind hunting of animals for their own good.
Following are a few factors that may cause a species to become endangered or threatened:
- Destruction of habitat upon which these species depend;
- Exploitation or overutilization for recreational, commercial, scientific, or educational purposes;
- Disease or excessive predation;
- Other natural or human-made factors such as pollution, deforestation and hunting;
- The inadequacy of existing rules and regulatory mechanisms.
What’s being done to save “Endangered” or “Threatened” species?
Conservation is the key to protecting several animal species from becoming extinct. Through the work of different conservation groups and wildlife veterinarians, species that were once considered endangered are on their way to recovery.
Conservation can be done in two ways:
1) Captive Breeding: This is the process of breeding rare or endangered species in human controlled environments with restricted settings. These include wildlife sanctuaries, zoos and other conservation facilities. These facilities have wildlife veterinarians to help care for sick animals and keep a watch over breeding before returning them to their natural habitat.
2) Private Farming: The government has successfully been able to bring private organizations and local communities into conservation programs. There are good economic incentives and benefits linked to taking care of these species such as Eco-tourism or selling them on for a profit for a good cause. So many owners are keeping them secure.
Bald Eagles and Florida Panthers are just a couple of examples of animals that have been making a recovery due to conservation work.
Laws to protect some species have also been enacted to cut down on poaching and certain species even have guards protecting them.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973, for example, is America’s one of the most effective environmental laws that represent a commitment to protect and restore species that are at risk of disappearing forever. The three primary goals of this Act are:
- To preventing listed species from being harmed or killed
- To protect habitat essential for the survival of these species
- To create conservation plans for restoring healthy populations
How can society contribute toward protecting these animals?
The responsibility of protecting endangered animals cannot fall on conservation groups alone. In fact, every human being should understand how important each living creature is to our planet, and there are many things people can do to help aid endangered or threatened animals. Here are a few:
1) Recycle and Utilize Less Energy: Consuming less energy can help protect the environment and recycling can be beneficial to habitats like rain forests and oceans.
2) Buy Sustainable Products: Choosing and buying sustainable products such as bamboo can also help cut down on the impact being made to the environment.
3) Volunteer to protect: Volunteering to participate in things like picking up litter or helping out at a beach cleanup event can aid in protecting the wildlife that live in those areas and preserve their habitats.
4) Donate: Donations to aid conservation groups in their efforts can also go a long way. The donations help these groups acquire the tools they need to preserve or revive habitats, as well as pay for care from veterinarians.
5) Never buy products made from such species: During overseas trips, make sure not to buy souvenirs made from species nearing extinction.