Habitat loss, climate change, poaching, and pollution paint a bleak picture for threatened and endangered species around the world. The loss of a single species is a tragic event and yet we lose an estimated 10,000 species to extinction every year! Well-known endangered animals in the US include national symbols like the Alaska grey wolf, American bison, and Florida manatee, but there are countless other undiscovered species threatened by extinction without our knowledge. Species extinctions not only throw ecosystems out of balance but can impact our food system, economy and eliminate potential scientific and medical breakthroughs.
Biodiversity refers to the variety of life in any given area. Humans have identified 1.7 million species (groups of living organisms that interbreed) but estimates of total number of species on the planet go up to 100 million. Tropical rainforests contain the most biodiversity, and invertebrates (animals without backbones) comprise half of the world’s identified species. Biodiversity makes extinction by disease less likely, as a more diverse population is likelier to adapt and rebound from challenges.
In the US, the Endangered Species Act designates threatened and endangered species and sets up programs to protect their habitats. Globally, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) unites the international community in protecting endangered species from human exploitation. These laws and others like them recognize the value of wildlife and represent important steps towards protecting biodiversity.
Because of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all the species in an ecosystem, the elimination of just one can have drastic and sudden effects on those remaining. There are five known mass extinctions in the earth's long history and many scientists say that humans are creating the sixth mass extinction today. This mass extinction is happening through the legal and illegal trade in at-risk species, expanding cities which destroy habitats, and human-driven climate change. These changes are happening so rapidly that many animals cannot adapt.
EarthShare member organizations are protecting the at-risk species in our backyards and around the world. Supporting these organizations is a simple first step you can take to defend wildlife.
Get involved by:
- Making an online donation to EarthShare
- Introducing the EarthShare employee program to your workplace
- Turning your yard into a haven for wildlife
- Adopting an at-risk animal from Defenders of Wildlife
- Becoming a citizen naturalist
- Reading the conservation resources below from our member organizations
- Know Your Flagship, Keystone, Priority and Indicator Species, World Wildlife Fund*
- Threats to Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation*
- Live Animal Cams, Smithsonian National Zoo*
- Mapping the Illegal Wildlife Trade, Wildlife Conservation Society*
* EarthShare member organization