What is an endangered species?
Endangered species are those considered to be at risk of extinction, meaning that there are so few left of their kind that they could disappear from the planet altogether. Endangered species are threatened by factors such as habitat loss, hunting, disease and climate change, and usually, endangered species, have a declining population or a very limited range.
The current rate of extinction is thought to be far greater than the expected natural rate, with many species going extinct before they have even been discovered. Shockingly, current estimates suggest that a third of the world’s amphibians, a quarter of all mammals and one in eight birds are endangered.
Endangered species usually have a small or declining population size or a very limited range, meaning factors such as habitat loss, hunting, disease or climate change could cause them to disappear completely within our lifetimes.
The alarming rate at which species are disappearing is something which should be a cause for concern for us all. Not only do they add beauty and wonder to the natural world, they are also of great global economic importance. A great diversity of species maintains the ecosystems essential to our existence by helping to regulate our climate and by providing:
- clean air and water
- building and clothing materials
- fertile soils
What is being done to help endangered species?
Conservation aims to protect the natural world and sustain biodiversity by carefully preserving and managing existing habitats and restoring areas which have been damaged or degraded.
Species conservation can also take place outside a species’ natural habitat. For example, caring for an endangered animal in captivity, such as in a zoo, or preserving endangered plants through the use of seed banks.
In areas where humans and animals are competing for space or resources, particularly in poorer developing countries, it is important that conservation work takes into account the needs of local people and works alongside them in protecting their native species.
Some commonly used conservation actions are as follows:
- Habitat preservation – The ideal solution is to protect habitats before they are damaged. This can be achieved through the creation of national parks and marine protected areas. However, it is important to note that many larger species require extensive territories and designated protected areas may not be large enough to support them.
- Habitat restoration – Where a habitat has already been degraded it is sometimes
possible to restore the habitat by carefully managing the land, removing invasive species and reintroducing native species that had been lost from the area. Some species are bred in captivity or relocated from other areas for this purpose.
- Ex-situ conservation – Many endangered species are bred in captivity to preserve their numbers and in some cases it is possible to reintroduce them to the wild. Some species, like the Golden arrow poison frog, have even been deliberately removed from the wild to protect them from the spread of disease and ensure that a small population is preserved. Plant species are often cultivated in nurseries and preserved via the use of seed banks.
- Anti-poaching measures – In remote areas guards are sometimes employed to protect endangered species, such as the mountain gorilla, from poachers. This can be a way of involving local communities in the protection of their wildlife whilst also providing some employment opportunities.
- Wildlife corridors – Where habitats have been fragmented by divisions such as roads, urban areas or farmland, populations become isolated and are unable to move throughout their natural range to find sufficient resources and mates. Wildlife corridors help to reconnect habitat fragments and maintain genetic diversity.
- Laws and policies – Some endangered species are protected by law or trade in them is restricted. CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) is an international agreement between governments to ensure that trade in wild animal and plant specimens does not threaten their survival.
How can you help?
As well as supporting conservation organisations there are some simple steps that everybody can take to help protect the natural world and the species in it. Here are some ideas:
- Recycle – Help protect the rainforests - recycling one tonne of paper can save 17 trees and preserve the habitat of a whole host of endangered species.
- Use less energy – An old tip but a good one, you can save yourself money and help the environment too. For example, energy saving light bulbs use 80 percent less energy than a standard bulb, yet produce the same amount of light.
- Choose sustainable products – Make sure that all the products you buy are sustainably sourced, from food and paper to timber.
- Make your voice heard – Petition for change! Many campaigns to help wildlife are underway but they need your support.
- Clean up your act – Volunteer to take part in a litter pick or beach clean up.
- Get involved – Taking part in wildlife surveys is a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors and find out more about your local wildlife. By assessing what species are present you can help scientists plan how best to protect them in the future.
Category: Personal Finance