Are you on the endangered species list?
We humans have several means at our disposal to take action and voice our opinions, but unfortunately the endangered species have no such voice or political influence. Because they represent monetary gain and profit, they are hunted or forced into extinction to satisfy our insatiable greed.
We teach our children about the folly, nay stupidity, of killing the goose that lays the golden egg but then go out and do just that.
The list of endangered species is depressingly long and not something we can reproduce here especially as it needs constant updating as more species join the list.
So what can be done to halt and hopefully reverse the trend?
If we can not stop global warming and global pollution that endangers our very existence, what chance do the endangered species stand?
Well let us be honest it will not be easy, but that is no excuse for not trying
Causes Of Endangerment
Endangerment is a broad issue and is one that involves the habitats and environments where species live and interact with one another. Although some measures are being taken to help specific cases of endangerment, the universal problem cannot be solved until humans protect the natural environments where endangered species dwell.
Our planet is constantly changing, and these natural changes usually occur over long time periods causing only minor impact. When change occurs at a faster rate, species have little or no time to adjust to these new circumstances and can cause disasterous results. For this reason, rapid habitat loss is the main reason for species to become endangered and the main culprit in habitat loss are human beings. Deforestation and the loss of the tropical rain forests are examples of human intervention resulting in the loss of habitat. Once cut, it can take many hundreds of years to re-grow these forests where many of the world's most severely threatened animals and plants live.
Please Do Not Take Away My Home
Unrestricted whaling during the 1900´s is a good example of over exploitation, and the whaling industry brought many species of whales to extremely low population sizes. When several whale species were nearly extinct, a number of nations agreed to abide by an international moratorium on whaling. Due to this moratorium, some whale species, such as the grey whale, have made remarkable comebacks, while others remain threatened or endangered.
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Due to the trade in animal parts, many species continue to suffer high rates of exploitation. Even today, there are demands for items such as rhino horns and tiger bones in several areas of Asia. It is here that there exists a strong market for traditional medicines made from these animal parts. Both the UK and the European Union have recently introduced tougher laws to prevent antique rhino horn trophies from being exported to Asia in an attempt to curb the trade in this endangered species.
Introduction of Exotic Species
Native species are those plants and animals that are part of a specific geographic area, and have ordinarily been a part of that particular biological landscape for a lengthy period of time. They are well adapted to their local environment and are accustomed to the presence of other native species within the same general habitat. Exotic species, however, are interlopers. These species are introduced into new environments by way of human activities, either intentionally or accidentally. These interlopers are viewed by the native species as foreign elements. They may cause no obvious problems and may eventual be considered as natural as any native species in the habitat. However, exotic species may also seriously disrupt delicate ecological balances and may produce a plethora of unintended yet harmful consequences.
The worst of these unintended yet harmful consequences arise when introduced exotic species put native species in jeopardy by preying on them. This can alter the natural habitat and can cause a greater competition for food. Species have been biologically introduced to environments all over the world, and the most destructive effects have occurred on islands. Introduced insects, rats, pigs, cats, and other foreign species have actually caused the endangerment and extinction of hundreds of species during the past five hundred years. Exotic species are certainly a factor leading to endangerment.
The rhododenrum, once thought of as an exotic plant, was introduced into Britain many years ago. It has flourished over the years to an extent where it is now considered a weed in many parts of the country and is threatening many native plant species.
Disease, pollution, and limited distribution are more factors that threaten various plant and animal species. If a species does not have the natural genetic protection against particular pathogens, an introduced disease can have severe effects on that specie. For example, rabies and canine distemper viruses are presently destroying carnivore populations in East Africa. Domestic animals often transmit the diseases that affect wild populations, demonstrating again how human activities lie at the root of most causes of endangerment. Pollution has seriously affected multiple terrestrial and aquatic species, and limited distributions are frequently a consequence of other threats; populations confined to few small areas due to of habitat loss, for example, may be disastrously affected by random factors.
Why Save Endangered Species
Plants and animals hold medicinal, agricultural, ecological, commercial, aesthetic and recreational value. Endangered species must be protected and saved so that future generations can experience their presence and value.
Plants and animals are responsible for a variety of useful medications. In fact, about forty percent of all prescriptions written today are composed from the natural compounds of different species. These species not only save lives, but they contribute to a prospering pharmaceutical industry worth over $40 billion annually. Unfortunately, only 5% of known plant species have been screened for their medicinal values, although we continue to lose up to 100 species daily.
The Pacific yew, a slow-growing tree found in the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, was historically considered a "trash" tree (it was burned after clear cutting). However, a substance in its bark taxol was recently identified as one of the most promising treatments for ovarian and breast cancer.
Additionally, more than 3 million American heart disease sufferers would perish within 72 hours of a heart attack without digitalis, a drug derived from the purple foxglove.
There are an estimated 80,000 edible plants in the world. Humans depend upon only 20 species of these plants, such as wheat and corn, to provide 90% of the world's food. Wild relatives of these common crops contain essential disease-resistant material. They also provide humans with the means to develop new crops that can grow in inadequate lands such as in poor soils or drought-stricken areas to help solve the world hunger problem. In the 1970s, genetic material from a wild corn species in Mexico was used to stop a leaf fungus that had previously wiped out 15% of the U.S. corn crop.
Plant and animal species are the foundation of healthy ecosystems. Humans depend on ecosystems such as coastal estuaries, prairie grasslands, and ancient forests to purify their air, clean their water, and supply them with food. When species become endangered, it is an indicator that the health of these vital ecosystems is beginning to unravel. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that losing one plant species can trigger the loss of up to 30 other insect, plant and higher animal species.
The northern spotted owl, listed as threatened in 1990, is an indicator of the declining health of the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest. These forests are the home to over 100 other old-growth dependent species, which are at risk due to decades of unsustainable forest management practices.
Pollution off the coast of Florida is killing the coral reefs along the Florida Keys, which serve as habitat for hundreds of species of fish. Commercial fish species have begun to decline, causing a threat to the multi-million dollar tourism industry, which depends on the quality of the environment.
Various wild species are commercially raised, directly contributing to local and regional economies. Commercial and recreational salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest provides 60,000 jobs and $1 billion annually in personal income, and is the center of Pacific Northwest Native American culture. This industry and way of life, however, is in trouble as salmon decline due to habitat degradation from dams, clear cutting, and overgrazing along streams.
Freshwater mussels which are harvested, cut into beads, and used to stimulate pearl construction in oysters form the basis of a thriving industry which supports approximately 10,000 U.S. jobs and contributes over $700 million to the U.S. economy annually. Unfortunately, 43% of the freshwater mussel species in North America are currently endangered or extinct.
Aesthetic and Recreational
Plant and animal species and their ecosystems form the basis of America´s multi-billion dollar, job-intensive tourism industry. They also supply recreational, spiritual, and quality-of-life values as well.
Please Let Me Live
Each year over 108 million people in the United States participate in wildlife-related recreation including observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife. Americans spend over $59 billion annually on travel, lodging, equipment, and food to engage in non-consumptive wildlife recreation.
Our quality of life and that of future generations depends on our preservation of plant and animal species. We are only the guardians of this planet and everything therein. We do not and never will own planet earth, so it is our responsibility to hand over the planet in a better state than that in which we inherited. Is it so much to ask?
Ways You Can Help Endangered Species
Endangered species need your help, so here are some ways that you can get involved:
- One of the most important ways to help threatened plants and animals survive is to protect their habitats permanently in national parks, nature reserves or wilderness areas. There they can live without too much interference from humans. It is also important to protect habitats outside reserves such as on farms and along roadsides.
- You can visit a nearby national park or nature reserve. Some national parks have special guided tours and walks for kids. Talk to the rangers to find out whether there are any threatened species and how they are being protected. You and your friends might be able to help the rangers in their conservation work.
- When you visit a national park, make sure you obey the wildlife code: follow fire regulations; leave your pets at home; leave flowers, birds´ eggs, logs and bush rocks where you find them; put your rubbish in a bin or, better still, take it home.
- If you have friends who live on farms, encourage them to keep patches of bush as wildlife habitats and to leave old trees standing, especially those with hollows suitable for nesting animals.
- Some areas have groups which look after local lands and nature reserves. They do this by removing weeds and planting local native species in their place. You could join one of these groups, or even start a new one with your parents and friends. Ask your local parks authority or council for information. By removing rubbish and weeds and replanting with natives you will allow the native bush to gradually regenerate. This will also encourage native animals to return.
Make Space For Wildlife
- Build a bird feeder and establish a birdbath for the neighborhood birds.
- Plant a tree and build a birdhouse in your backyard.
- Start composting in your backyard garden or on your balcony. It eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers which are harmful to animals and humans, and it benefits your plants!
- Ask your parents not to use harmful chemicals in your garden or home.
I Can Live With You But Can You Live With Me
Recycle, Reduce, And Reuse
- Encourage your family to take public transportation. Walk or ride bicycles rather than using the car.
- Save energy by turning off lights, radios and the TV when you are not using them.
- Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth and use water-saving devices on your toilet, taps and shower head.
- Ask your parents to buy products and food without packaging whenever possible. Take your own bag to the store. It will reduce the amount of garbage and waste your family produces.
- Recycle your toys, books and games by donating them to a hospital, daycare, nursery school or children's charity.
- Encourage your family to shop for organic fruits and vegetables.
Plant Native Plants That Are Local To The Area
If you can, plant native plants instead of non-native or introduced ones in your garden. You do not want seeds from introduced plants escaping into the bush. Native grasses, flowers, shrubs and trees are more likely to attract native birds, butterflies and other insects, and maybe even some threatened species.
Control Introduced Plants And Animals
- Non-native plants and animals are ones that come from outside your local area.
- Some parks and reserves, beaches, bush-land and rivers are now infested with invasive plants, and native species often cannot compete with these plants.
- Many environmental weeds come from people´s gardens.
- Sometimes, the seeds are taken into the bush by the wind or by birds. Controlling these foreign species is an important step in protecting wildlife.
- There are many community groups working on conservation activities. Join an organization in your area and start helping today!
Make Your Voice Heard
- Government conservation agencies are responsible for the management of national parks and the protection of wildlife. They are sometimes supported by public foundations.
- Tell your family, friends and work mates about threatened species and how they can help them.
- Start a group dedicated to protecting a threatened plant or animal in your area or perhaps to help care for a national park. Facebook, Twitter and similar have many such groups and causes that you can join and support.
- Write articles or letters about threatened species to newspapers.
- Ring up talk-back radio programs to air your concerns, or arrange to talk on your community radio station.
- Contact your local politician and ask for party support on some of the above issues. Always remember a politician is more slippery than a bar of soap in a bowl of water, so you will need to make sure there is some political capital to be made from supporting the issue. If a politician can gain an advantage from supporting your idea they will go for it, so make sure popularity and votes are at stake.
No matter what you decide to do be it little or large, the important thing is you have done something. It is so easy to sit back and let somebody else do the work, but if we all did that, nothing would get done. So remember, every journey starts with the first step and from tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow. Perhaps your fist step will be the first of many and some endangered species will benefit from your action.
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This is something that you can do today so there is no excuse.