Before there were humans, animals reigned over the ginormous kingdom we know as the planet Earth. What is much unknown among the human population is the severity and critical effects humans are having on these animals. Endangered species are a highly controverted topic among today’s society, and pose a serious risk of never recovering from their diminishing numbers. An endangered species is “a species at risk of extinction because of human activity, changes in climate, changes in predator-prey ratios, etc.” (Dictionary.com). Animals and plants that make it to this list face imminent danger of being completely wiped from the face of the earth with no hope of possible recovery. Saving our endangered species should be one of the top priorities in every country globally before possible extinction.
What are Endangered Species
When people think of endangered species they typically think of exotic animals such as tigers, rhinos, elephants, etc., but they are not just limited to; they can also include plant-life as well. In a personal interview I asked a fellow student what his opinion on endangered species was “Endangered species should be one of top priorities that the world should come together to help conserve. If we keep allowing these animals to die off we will lose the privilege to see a beautiful animal for the last time, and know we could have stopped it” (G. Honaker, personal communication, December 2, 2018). On the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website there are over 1200 listed entries of animals that are at risk possibly going extinct (“Listed Animals”). That is 1200 animals that we may in the near future ever see again.
The Endangered Species Act or (ESA) is a Federal law signed by President Nixon on December 28, 1973. This is a federal law that protects all endangered and threatened species including, plant, marine, and animal life. The United States Environmental Protection Agency states “The lead federal agencies for implementing ESA are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries Services” (“Listing a Species as a Threatened or Endangered Species” 1). The U.S. Fish and Wildlife maintains a list of endangered species worldwide. The list includes but is not limited to, the cheetah, sharks, white rhinos, blue whales, honey bees, and the African elephant (Environmental Conservation Online System 1 ). There are several different factors when it comes to deciding which animals are going to be considered endangered or threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife list some of the criteria which include the threatened destruction or modification of the animal’s habitat, the overuse of the land for commercial, educational purposes etc. They also include other man made factors that could interfere with the survival of the animal or plant (Environmental Conservation Online System 1). I asked a fellow peer what provisions they would put in place to urge the recovery of these animals and environments, “I would create guarded off limit zones in which if someone was caught poaching or destroying these habitats they would face severe criminal punishment. At this point we are taking up too much space on this earth already, and at this rate we are going to kill all the animals and wildlife we have left” (M. Dillon, personal communication, December 8, 2018). Animals are being forced to live in limited areas called “islands” which messes up the relationship between plant and animal life (Hengesbaugh, 2001, p. 91). These animals are forced into smaller and smaller areas in which the foods they eat are harder to find which leads to the death of many species and less genetic diversity due to lack of reproduction.
One of the biggest threats for endangered animals is poaching or the illegal killing of animals. In the book The Agricultural History Review published by British Agricultural History Society, connections are made between peak poverty times and the poaching of Salmon. This article also states, “These sub-patterns would appear to indicate that, like salmon poaching, the annual periodicity of game and poaching was as much determined by nature, in terms of practical considerations about the availability, and marketability of the creature concerned, as by the cycles of rural unemployment and poverty” (“Agricultural History Review” 1). They determined these factors by keeping records and graphs of the amount of poaching done in relativity to the unemployment rates at certain peak times in a year.
Poaching has been an issue for hundreds of years but was not considered unlawful until modern times when it became less of a necessity to hunt animals for resources. In africa, poaching is an inclining issue, because of the amount of money animal parts are going for illegally on the market. The biggest issue of poaching in Africa has been the conservation of elephants, Elephants tusks are used to produce ivory and has been in demand since 1979. According to PBS, “Poachings fueled by ivory sales cut Africa’s elephant population in half….In 1977, 1.3 million elephants lived in Africa; by 1997, only 600,000 remained” (PBS). Since then, there has been a ban on international ivory sales. Elephants aren’t the only animals killed for their tusks either, african rhinos’ are also killed for their horns as they are believed to be aphrodisiacs and have many other health benefits, despite the scientific research negating these claims. Mike Holston also known by his alias as “The Real Tarzan” says “You’re hurting an animal for no reason” (Holston). Mike is an endangered animal conservationist and educator, and has been trying to raise awareness of this cruelty happening, regardless of there being no benefit.
Another major impact on endangered animals is the invasion and pollution of their environments. “The leading causes of extinction are now thought to stem from human activity, with nearly all threatened species also at risk” (“Threatened and Endangered Species” 1). Humans have made quite a negative impact on how the human race and animals coexist on earth. Studies have shown that humans influence most species evolution and endangerment, Habitat destruction by humans, and invasion of the ocean, such as through overfishing and contamination modifies and destructs of vast parts of land and river systems around the world. The scholarly article, “How humans drive speciation as well as extinction” by J.W. Bull and M. Maron, states that “People have transported species to ecosystems in which they are non-native, intentionally or otherwise, for millennia. The establishment of alien invasive species is a threat to global biodiversity…” (Bull and Maron 1). This quote explains although humans have tried to help with extinction by relocation, relocation is just as big as a threat to ecosystems and animals as much as anything else we have done.
Cause of Extinction
Whether humans are the main cause of extinction or not has been argued for many years. Most believe that extinction is just a part of evolution and humans have not caused as many extinctions as most think. In an article by the Washington Post, Alexander Pyron says, “The goals of species conservation have to be aligned with the acceptance that large numbers of animals will go extinct. Thirty to forty percent of species may be threatened with extinction in the near future, and their loss may be inevitable. But both the planet and humanity can probably survive or even thrive in a world with fewer species” (Pyron 1). Most argue that even if humans are the cause of extinction, there should be no moral attachment to extinction. Yet we, as a human race, are obsessed with reviving any possible extinction around the world. Scientists explain that humans should feel less guilt about building their environment around the concern of extinction. “ When beavers make a dam, they cause the local extinction of numerous riverine species that cannot survive in the new lake. But that new lake supports a set of species that is just as diverse” (Pyron 1). This quote gives the example of how other species do not stop how they are surviving for the sake of their environment, they adapt.
This is comparable to the way humans invade the ecosystems in which these animals live, the animals indefinitely have to leave their homes and move just so that man colonize a certain area. The animals eventually will adapt to their new location, but sometimes they don’t and they die off. This has happened throughout history and it is evident that man is the main cause of extinction. A major example of this being the tropical rainforest in South America. The tropical rainforest has been a key point of destroying an ecosystem just for the benefit of money in the paper and lumber industry. This ecosystem is one of the largest areas on earth harboring many endangered species. Its ares like this that have the utmost importance because “We should protect landscapes that support the greatest richness of plants, animals, birds, amphibians, insects and trees” (Hengesbaugh, 2001, p. 91).
There is hope for these animals, only if mankind chooses to coexist with them. Countries around the world need to come together to help fund and create a worldwide conservation organization that promotes the survival of endangered species. “Cooperation should occur simply to enhance conservation of more species, not to garner resources of fewer species” (Marzluff and Restani 176). Countries would have to work together to make this work, but if resources were pulled globally to ensure the reconstruction of these species numbers then there would be a steady road to full recovery. This would be done by establishing sanctuary areas for these species to roam, but still be under protection and not at risk of poaching. This would create jobs defending these animals as well as ensure these animals rehabilitation.
Another major factor that needs to be put in place is stopping pollution of our waterways and atmosphere. Natural resources will eventually run out, and as of right now we are hurting our major waterways and ozone with pollutants. Recycling should be enforced in order to restrict the toxic chemicals that are making their way into our oceans and water supplies. Marine wildlife is suffering from becoming stuck in massive trash piles floating in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Efforts have been made however to scoop as much trash out of these oceans as possible for recycling. With these initiatives in place to eliminate poaching and pollution it will become possible to save the species we are in danger of losing.
In the end, we question whether we, as a human race need to change our way of living and progression of society to accommodate to the species and plant life surrounding us. While we develop our new cities and industries we impact other species drastically. We need to stay aware that we are harming other ecosystems as well as killing off animals in the process. While expansion isn’t always negative, we need to be aware of the amount of destruction we are causing in mass amounts. There is no need to be wiping out entire ecosystems and habitats for the expansion of building of our own.
We need to limit pollution of our air and water systems and create a stable, equitable future for the recovery of species and habitats that we have impacted.We need to conserve the species that are close to extinction while we still can. These species time is limited so we need to act now. In time, species will return and develop across various parts of the world with or without the help of the human race. We are the ones responsible for their killing so we should be held accountable to see it through that these animals, plants, and ecosystems recover and thrive (“Threatened and Endangered Species” 1). Humans as well as wildlife reserve the right to live on this earth as one so we must respect one another in that manner.
- Bull, J W and M Maron. “How humans drive speciation as well as extinction”Proceedings. Biological sciences vol. 283,1833 (2016): 20160600.
- “Endangered Species.” Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, 1965, www.dictionary.com/browse/endangered-species.
- M. Dillon, Interview. By William Gregory. 8 Dec. 2018.
- G. Honaker, Interview. By William Gregory. 2 Dec. 2018.
- Hengesbaugh, Mark Gerard, et al. “Island Syndrome Extinctions: How Small an Area Is Too Small for Nature to Carry on?” Creatures Of Habitat: The Changing Nature of Wildlife and Wild Places in Utah and the Intermountain West, University Press of Colorado, 2001, pp. 89–93. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt46nxxk.10.
- PBS. “The Elephants of Africa: The Poaching Problem.” Nature, Public Broadcasting Service, 16 November 1997, http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/elephants-africa-poaching-problem/11367/
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. “Listing a Species as a Threatened or Endangered Species”. Section 4 of the Endangered Species Act. August 2016.
- Pyron, R. Alexander. “We Don’t Need to Save Endangered Species. Extinction Is Part of Evolution.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Nov. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/we-dont-need-to-save-endangered-species-extinction-is-part-of-evolution/2017/11/21/57fc5658-cdb4-11e7-a1a3-0d1e45a6de3d_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.bf3ed1953e59.
- Restani, Marco, and John M. Marzluff. “Funding Extinction? Biological Needs and Political Realities in the Allocation of Resources to Endangered Species Recovery.” BioScience, vol. 52, no. 2, Feb. 2002, p. 169. EBSCOhost, ucark.idm.oclc.org/login?url=https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=6057132&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
- @therealtarzann. “Rhinos, Elephants, and Tigers.” Instagram, 15 November 2018, https://www.instagram.com/p/BqNMYmzB76M/
- “Threatened & Endangered Species.” The Environmental Literacy Council, 2015, enviroliteracy.org/ecosystems/classifying-species/threatened-endangered-species/.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Listed Animals.” Environmental Conservation Online System, ecos.fws.gov/ecp0/reports/ad-hoc-species-report?kingdom=I&status=SAT&fcrithab=on&fstatus=on&fspecrule=on&finvpop=on&fgroup=on&header=Listed%2BAnimals