Raising Awareness About Endangered Species

by Karly Boettcher on February 18, 2014



polar bears

Figure 1: from http://www.alaskawild.org/wp-content/uploads/Polar_Bears_USFWS.jpg


When I was young, my family vacationed to a private in Michigan lake that was home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including loons, beavers, turtles, and bald eagles. I was particularly proud to enjoy the peaceful place they called home. I knew the loon was uncommon and the eagle was endangered, but that was the extent of my knowledge on endangered or threatened species. I knew there were a lot of animals that were in danger, but had no idea the number or the seriousness of their conditions. According to Endangered Species International, there are now approximately 16,928 species that are listed as threatened or endangered.[1] Unfortunately, it’s humans who can be held responsible for the condition of most of these species.

Humans are notorious for disrupting and destroying animal habitat, and in many cases we weren’t aware of the broad spectrum of consequences until after significant damage had been done. In an effort to protect animals and their habitats, particularly those that are declining in number, the Endangered Species Preservation Act was established in 1996[2]. This act consolidated a list of endangered animals. While it only offered limited protection, the act allowed some land to be acquired and reserved for animal habitat[3]. A more significant change came in 1973, when Congress approved the Endangered Species Act. This act broadened the scope of plants and animals under protection, as well as specifically defined how animals and plants could be specified as “endangered” (at risk of extinction) or “threatened” (at risk of becoming endangered).[4]

I learned somewhat recently that this list is constantly changing and unfortunately, it is growing. While we have made significant efforts to rehabilitate species and protect them in the wild, our presence in the environment is still having negative effects. Human’s interaction with the environment and recent climate change has caused many species to lose their habitat. In many cases, while searching for new places to live, these animals encounter a human environment – this situation doesn’t usually end well.

People and organizations that protect endangered species need help. Whether it is donating money to support them, being politically active, or just spreading awareness, there is a way for everyone to contribute.[5] One important thing that everyone can do is to be aware of what animals are on the list. You may be surprised. Even simple environmentally friendly things like using recycled products, being aware of pollution certain products produce, and driving eco-friendly cars can help preserve the habitats of animals and plants that are struggling to survive around the world. It’s also important to hold people responsible for violating these laws. If you see or hear of anyone violating the Act that protects these animals, speak out: punishments for knowingly hunting endangered species can include fines and imprisonment.[6]

The Eagle has since been removed from the endangered and threatened species list (in 2007)[7], and a pair still happily reside on a private lake in Michigan. However, many animals that may seem common in the wild are listed as endangered or threatened, for example many species of bats, and some species of wolves.[8]  As recently as 2008, species like the Polar Bear have been added due to the effects of environmental change and human disturbances of their habitat.[9] It’s not too late to help these species and make a difference. Do a little research, and be aware of how your actions affect the plants and animals we live with.






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