Extinction is when an animal species no longer lives on the Earth. Extinction is nothing new, but what is new are some of the reasons the Earth is now losing more animals, at a faster rate than it is believed ever before in Earth’s history.
Animals in Danger of Extinction – The Causes
The famous biologist, E. O. Wilson says the causes of animals in danger of extinction can be explained using the acronym H-I-P-P-O, Hippo. Here is what Hippo stands for:
H= Habitat: There are many reasons animals become extinct. One of the most common reason is loss of habitat. The Earth constantly changes, but human activity is having a devastating effect on animals by destroying many of the places animals live, like the rain forests. In some cases animals become extinct because the food they depend on becomes extinct causing the animals to die of starvation. This is called co-extinction. There are many examples of co-extinction, but the most common is that of the dinosaurs. When to climate of the Earth changed very suddenly many of the plants died, which resulted in the loss of herbivorous (plant eating) dinosaurs. With the loss of herbivores came the extinction of the carnivorous (meat eating) dinosaurs. This is an example of co-extinction but it is also one of the five known mass-extinctions.
I= Invasive Species: An invasive species is a type of plant, animal, insect or disease that moves into a new area, where it has not lived before, and over takes other living things. When the existing habitat is disturbed there can be an opportunity for an invasive weed to move in and kill the remaining grassland. An animal could be pushed into a new habitat and kill the native animals. The non-native animal might even carry a disease that the native animals have never been exposed to or have any immunity to, and die as a result.
P= Pollution: Exposure to toxic pollution is another cause of extinction. Human activity is releasing harmful chemicals into the air, water and soil all over the planet. Many animals cannot adapt to the changes these chemicals are making in the environment and they die. For example, some chemicals change the pH balance in water which changes the whole ecosystem of a river or a lake, killing off plants, fish and reptiles.
P= Population (human): The human population explosion is having devastating effects on the whole planet. Habitat is being reduced as humans consume more natural lands and more resources, like water. Even more land is being tilled into crops to grow grains for human and domestic livestock. In addition, humans are creating mass amounts of waste that is contaminating the entire Earth.
O= Overharvesting: Overharvesting is still another reason animal species are becoming extinct. As the human population continues to grow more animals are hunted for food. Ocean fishing is threatening many species of fish. Another form of hunting involves the taking of animals for their beautiful hides, horns or in the case of the elephants, their ivory tusks. There has been tighter restrictions put on legal hunting but many animals are illegally hunted. This is called poaching and it has very strict penalties.
Animals in Danger of Extinction
The animals below are so rare they aren’t even talked about, so before they are gone you can learn about them here.
The Vaquita is a type of porpoise that only lives in the Gulf of California. In 1997 there was an estimated 600 left and by 2007 their population was reduced to about 150. They are not hunted directly but are caught in gillnets as fishing boats catch other fish. The Vaquita are being killed by accident in what is called by-catch.
2. Sunda Rhin
The Javanese or Sunda Rhino is considered the rarest animal on earth, with only 40-50 in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia and none are in zoos or captivity.
3. Sumatran Orangutan
The Sumatran Orangutan is a very rare member of the Orangutan family. It is only found on the northern part of Sumatra island, Indonesia. In 2004 there was an estimated 7300 which qualifies it for critically endangered.
To this list there are many hundreds of animals, fish, reptiles and insects that could be added as endangered of becoming extinct, including Polar Bear, Black Rhinos, China’s Giant Panda, just to name a few of the more common and loved animals.
Efforts to save these Animals
There are many things being done to save the endangered animals from becoming extinct. Scientists study the animals and try to determine where they could be moved or protected. Many breeding programs have been established to grow the population of a species. Tougher anti-poaching laws and patrols are helping to protect some animals. Unfortunately, with everything that humans try to do that is good, there are unintended consequences that are not always helpful. Also, various governments are not very cooperative with outsiders making recommendations about managing their land and their animals.
What are the possible Consequences?
There are many consequences if these animals in danger of extinction become extinct. Of course, the loss of their beauty is very important. But beyond beauty, each of these species is part of a whole system. If one part of the system is removed the system is no longer in balance and the stage is set for something else to happen in that area. This can have major effects when all the functions of an eco-system are examined. For example, what happens if a pollinator becomes extinct? What happens to the prey if a predator becomes extinct? What happens to a predator if all the prey becomes extinct? With one species gone, the eco-system must find a new balance and repair itself, or others species will fail as well.
What Needs to be Done?
There are many things that can be done to help these species, and all the others so they aren’t facing total extinction. Learn about these species and understand why they are important in their environment. Education is very important. Understanding how humans can live in harmony with all things on Earth is key. Humans are animals too; if the animals are in trouble and dying, what will happen to us?