Some of the greatest victims of environmental destruction and climate change have been the animals and plants that give Earth the diverse ecosystems that it has. As a result of habitat destruction, pollution, poaching, and changes in the global climate, many animals have become endangered or even extinct. Endangered species are those that are likely to become extinct, and extinct species are those that have no remaining surviving members, either in the wild or in captivity. It is critical that we work to protect endangered species to prevent the extinction rate from rising. Not only is it a tragedy to see so many unique animals disappear, but it is also an unnatural disruption to the natural function of Earth’s biomes, which should be avoided as much as possible.
Photo: The New York Public Library on Unsplash
In 1998, there were 1,102 endangered animal species across the globe and 1,197 endangered plant species. In 2012, just fourteen years later, the number of endangered animals had risen to 3,079 and the number of endangered plants to 2,655. Many nations do have laws to try and protect endangered species, which include bans on hunting, restrictions on land development, and the creation of nature preserves and national parks. While these certainly have a positive effect, the number of endangered flora and fauna species continues to rise. Today, over 40% of the species on the planet are considered to be at risk of extinction, which just emphasizes how important it is that we continue instituting practices and legislation that protect at-risk species. It is also important to ensure that not only are these practices being put in place, but that they are actually being carried out and enforced. If they are not enforced, these laws will not be effective in protecting endangered species.
Even though the situation seems dire, we ought not to lose all hope. The California sea otter is an example of a species that was very close to extinction but was able to recover. After many years of being killed for their fur, their numbers increased once this practice ceased. It is likely that many other species would also be able to recover if their specific threat was eliminated. This threat can vary from species to species. For one, it might be rising temperatures and for another, it might be the destruction of its natural habitat. Overall, the more we know about the lifeforms on Earth, the better we will be able to protect them.
The threat of animal and plant extinction is not one of the future. This is a danger that is up to the people today and those in the decades to come to resolve. According to the book The Future of Life, it is estimated by scientists “that up to half of presently existing plant and animal species may become extinct by 2100”. Personally, I find this terrifying, and I believe that protecting life on this planet is just as important as any other goal or priority that we may have. Once species go extinct, they can never be brought back. While there have been natural mass-extinctions in the past, future scientists looking back may describe our current era as one of a human-caused mass-extinction, and I don’t know about you, but I certainly do not want that to be the legacy of my generation.