Endangered Species, Can We Stop Their Extinction?
What is a species? What exactly is an endangered species? What is an extinct species? How have these species come to the point of becoming endangered or extinct? What can we do to save the endangered species that are near extinction? Can we actually do anything to save these species, or is it a lost cause? Why should I care?
The answer to many of these questions is not know by most people. As much attention as this subject gets from environmental groups and agencies, it gets just as much ignoring by the general public. Many people feel compelled to help or contribute, yet few seldom do carry out their intentions. This is a very serious subject that needs to receive immediate and full attention from the general public. Only they can truly make a difference. The concept of extinction just doesnt seem to be fully understood by many people. Once theyre gone, theyre gone for good. There is no returning from extinction. If we continue at the present rate we are at now, we could lose one bird or mammal species per year by the year 2000. These concepts and questions will be fully answered by the time you have completed reading this paper.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of The English Language, A species is a fundamental category of taxonomic classification, ranking after a genus, and consisting of organisms capable of interbreeding . A simpler working definition agreed upon by most biologist is if two visibly different though similar groups of organisms live together with little or no sign of interbreeding, they are considered to be separate species. Dogs, cats, trees, flowers, and humans are all different examples of species. A definition of endangered species and a classification of when a species is endangered is such, organisms once common and abundant but now rare in numbers in the wild are considered to be endangered. And obviously, species that do not exist anymore are considered extinct. These are important fundamental concepts that need to be understood before anything can actually be done to help save or prevent endangered species from becoming extinct.
The methods and causes of many species becoming endangered and extinct are many and varied. Yet they are all related and caused by one all important underlying factor, humans. Humans are responsible for nearly every endangered species being that way and for very many of the species that have become extinct within the past few hundred years. The main reason for a species becoming endangered is the loss of natural habitats. Each year thousands of acres of rainforests are cut down or deforested, wetlands and marshes are drained, and slowly but surely the grasslands are being replaced by cities, towns, and highways . This is a world wide problem. When a species natural habitat is destroyed or reduced, there is basically nowhere to go. A displaced species of a destroyed or severely polluted habitat often times cannot adapt fast enough or well enough to survive. A species in a reduced habitat often times has to fight just to stay alive. The reduction causes an increase in the population density of not only that particular species, but every other species in that habitat as well . With higher population densities, resources such as food, water, and nesting places become so sparse that they cannot possibly support the demand. This leads to the endangerment of hundreds of species worldwide. Many of the already extinct species went through this exact process of their demise.
The second major reason of endangerment and extinction is poaching and commercial hunting . A poacher is someone who hunts and kills rare animals for profit. Often times an animal is killed in such a brutal way that it not only cruel but inhumane as well. Poachers do not hunt for food or for legalized game hunting. They will kill and massacre often times for one small part of the animal that they can sell on the Black Market. Elephants are hunted solely for their tusks which are made out of ivory, a extremely valuable material that is often use to make several different kinds of art or jewelry. Tigers, leopards, cheetahs and jaguars are hunted for their fur hides which can be made into all kinds of clothing and apparel. Lastly, Rhinos are hunted and killed for their horns which are believed by some to contain magical powers and spirits. Some of the time, rare animals are trapped and exported to private zoos or laboratories, which is just as serious of a crime. Although most countries have strict rules and regulations about the hunting and transporting of these animals, it seems that a few are always getting around these laws or getting away with their crimes . Commercial hunting is most popularly know by whale hunting. The whales of our oceans have been hunted nearly to extinction. The blubber and meats of whales are used in many, many different products such as lipstick, mascara, whale oil . Although many countries such as the US and Canada are now leading the way to ban all such whale hunting, many other countries such a Japan, Norway, Sweden, and Finland continue to hunt these whales . Laws and regulations have been raised to stop this hunting within 200 nautical miles of many countries. The sea still remains free though to any and all hunting that can be done.
Much is currently being done to help save the endangered species at this time. Zoos worldwide often help or contribute to governments and preservation groups working to preserve animals and environments. One such zoo, the San Diego Zoo is very prominent worldwide for the work that they have done over the years to help take species off the endangered species list. The SD Zoo is well known for its Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species (CRES). At CRES, the Virology and Immunology department is working to reduce the impact of deadly viruses and diseases in the world animal population . The Reproductive Physiology department is studying semen evaluation, cryopreservation, artificial insemination techniques, and embryo transfer . The Pathology department is working to pinpoint the cause of death of many animals and methods to prevent it . Ten or twenty years ago many of these projects and groups were not even in existence.
The SD Zoo is also the front-runner in captive breeding technology, a new way of preventing extinction of many endangered species. They have had much experience and positive results in this field. One example of a successful breeding is the Arabian Oryx. In 1960, the Arabian Oryx became extinct in the wild. Since then over 200 born and raised through captive breeding, worldwide. Recently, some of these Oryxs have been reintroduced to their native Middle Eastern habitats. Another success story is that of Prezewalskies Horse. Prezewalskies Horse became extinct in the wild within the past ten years. Since then, 1,000 have been raised in captive breeding and there are plans to soon reintroduce them to their native Mongolian-Chinese habitats. Finally the story that is closest to home happened here in the US. In 1982, only 9 California Condors remained alive. Now, since to captive breeding, and efforts of many preservation groups, 64 are now in existence. 1992 marked the first release of the California Condor into the wild after a 10 year captive breeding plan.
There are many things that you can do to help save the endangered species as well as cleaning up the environment. Help, whether direct or indirect is always appreciated. One such example of help is a program run by school children in San Diego. The program, Cans for Critters, is an aluminum can recycling program that helps raise money for the SD zoos endangered species . In one year alone, nearly $50,000 was raised through this program. The money was given to the zoos CRES and spent on some of the above mentioned research. You may wonder how recycling aluminum cans can help save endangered species besides just raising money. Well, believe it or not, by recycling all aluminum cans, bauxite a metal mineral mined from the soil beneath the Amazon Rainforest can be preserved. This mineral is used in all aluminum cans . This preservation will save the rainforests from being cut down and the destroying the habitats of millions of species. Also, energy conservation can help save endangered species. By turning off all the lights in your home that you are not using, energy will be saved. This will reduce the demand on the local power companies, thus causing them to burn less coal and oil (air pollution) or react nuclear materials in a nuclear power plant (extremely hazardous toxic waste).
You can even start your own programs for recycling, energy conservation, and other things. Two steps that will get you on your way are:
A. Hold a school, business, or neighborhood wide assembly to educateeveryone about recycling. Invite guest speakers such as a recycling center director or a community leader to talk about their activities.
B. Submit an article about your program to the local paper, work news letter, or school paper. Also, send a news release to newspaper editors or radio and television reporters. They may respond by publicizing your efforts.
Some other easy steps that you can take at home will indirectly help the environment and endangered species in the long-run. They are:
1. Buy products with minimal packaging.
2. Save cardboard boxes, and or paper or plastic bags for storing household items.
3. Buy products (like cleaners, toiletries, and dry goods) in economy sized packages. Consider buying your food in bulk, it will not only save money but reduce waste as well.
4. Turn decayed organic materials from your yard into mulch or fertilizer.
5. Reduce your junk mail. This saves lots of paper and trees. Just fill out a form at your local post office to remove your name from third class mailing lists.
The last and most important question everyone asks is, why me? There are hundreds of possible answers to this question, but in order to truly care, you must find this answer yourself. Humans must feel compassion towards animals in order to understand their struggle for survival. The preservation of all species is very beneficial to all of mankind. Many organisms have a conventional beauty that goes far beyond that on any other. Another simple argument is we exist, so why cant other animals have that same right to exist? Many of the benefits of preservation are extremely beneficial to mankind. Chemicals found in certain plants have been proven to be medically beneficial . Two such chemicals are the alkaloids, vincristine and vinblastine. These are used in the treatment of Hodgkins disease and other cancers. It is believed that the estimated quarter-million flowering plant species are potentially a gold mine of additional beneficial chemicals . Some animals also have very beneficial uses. Extracts from some marine animals related to those that built the giant coral reefs, show some promise as anti-cancer agents. So far, several broad-spectrum anti-bodies have been extracted from marine sponges . Sea Anemones, segmented worms, clams, sea cucumbers, sea squirts, moss animals, proboscis worms, sharks, and sting rays are all creatures of the sea that contain medical benefits. On land, ancrod, the venom of Malayan pit vipers is used as an anti-coagulant, an agent to prevent the formation of blood clots. Rats, mice, Rhesus monkeys, and chimps have served as surrogates for human beings in a wide variety of medical experiments. Perhaps though the greatest of all benefits derived from other organisms is that of nourishment which Homo Sapiens extracts from them .
Hopefully, as you can now see, this subject is not as complicated, boring, or hard to get interested in. I say this because I was just like you were when you first heard this topic discussed. I wanted to do something else or talk about something else, but once I got into researching it and writing about it, I realized just how simple it is to make a change. It is very easy to make a change or do something to make a difference, while it is harder to keep putting it off or making excuses to yourself and others why you cant help. Everyone should and can do their part. The key is education. Once a person is educated as to how or what they can do to help, they are open to a whole new window of opportunity. To answer my final question, is it a lost cause? Certainly not, we must never give up hope for it is our future that we are building and we will live with it, excitations and all, for the rest of our lives.
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