polar bear on ice with a raised paw

Living in an Endangered World: The “Quiet Disappearance” of Wildlife

On the eastern coast of North Carolina, tucked away in a small grove of pine and white ash, a mother red wolf lies curled in her den, nosing her pups closer to her warmth and away from the gnarled roots that separate above her, exposing branches and blue sky.

Not far away, the steady hum of cars from Highway 264 add a uniquely human ambiance to the quiet of the woods. The mother wolf is one of only three remaining breeding pairs in the country, and this will be her last litter. Her mate was shot and killed by a hunter, mistaking the small wolf for a coyote. She very well could be the last of her kind, and she knows it.

The pups whimper, and she nuzzles them, closing her eyes and letting a low whine escape as the cars continue to rush by.

The Epidemic of Endangerment

As heartbreaking as this story is, it is not depicting an isolated incident. Across the United States and around the world, species are dying off at rapid speeds; largely due to the impact of humans on global habitats. Rapid development, alternative land use, water and air pollution, the introduction of invasive species—the list is long. Since the 1990s, at least 11 species have gone entirely extinct—and those are just species that we know of and have been tracking. As of 2022, there are more than 9,000 critically endangered plant and wildlife species; one step below extinction.

Scientists claim we have entered into the sixth major extinction event of animals on our planet; the last being—you guessed it—the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. At the time, it was the fastest period of mass extinction and took place over the course of 2.5 million years. Today, humans are really giving this stat a run for its money. In the past 500 years alone, humans have been the direct cause of at least 869 known species, but many estimate this number to be much, much higher. In fact, according to Dr Katie Collins, Curator of Benthic Molluscs at the Natural History Museum, “The current rate of extinction is between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the pre-human background rate of extinction, which is jaw-dropping. We are definitely going through a sixth mass extinction.”

And yet, despite these staggering statistics, it’s likely you’ve heard of very few of these species. For example, what do you know about vaquita, or what about saola or the amur leopard? Each of these species and so many others are on the very edge of extinction, and this absolutely impacts, not only global biodiversity, but the very precarious balance of ecosystems all over the world. So why is it we’re not talking about it?

The "Quiet" Disappearance

Unlike the meteor that caused the final dinosaur extinction, which arguably did happen with a “bang,” rapid species loss today is happening much more quietly. In fact, when confronted with the statistics, many people are shocked to learn that some of their favorite animal species are close to being extinct in the wild. This is why it is absolutely critical that we amplify the work of nonprofit organizations working tirelessly to support these species, fight for regulations, and educate the public about how to get involved.

The following nine organizations are EarthShare Nonprofit Partners doing just this. To see more organizations in our Network fighting for wildlife and biodiversity, and to support these and all your other favorite nonprofits in one convenient place, become an EarthShare Member.

Local, Regional & State

Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee
Founded in 1974, the Desert Tortoise Preserve Committee promotes the welfare of the desert tortoise in its native habitat throughout the southwestern deserts. Protection and conservation efforts include land acquisition and stewardship, education, research, and collaboration with government agencies and community stakeholders to ensure the recovery and maintenance of desert tortoise populations and ecosystems.
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Echoes of Nature
Dedicated to teaching people of all ages about Maryland’s native wildlife, Echoes of Nature (EON) uses multisensory teaching techniques to connect individuals and communities to animals and nature. With hands-on animal education programs and a core mission of promoting environmental stewardship, EON is leading the way to building better connections between people and planet.
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Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association
OWRA’s mission is to promote wildlife conservation in Ohio and dedicate resources to wildlife rehabilitation, education, and community engagement and training in order to help when injured, orphaned, or diseased wildlife are encountered. OWRA also provides resources for rehabilitators to keep up to date on regulations, permits, and more.
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Beaver Institute
Advancing beaver management and watershed restoration is the main mission of Beaver Institute. This is accomplished through technical and financial support and education of the public, helping landowners mitigate issues with beavers, supporting scientific research, and celebrating the critical role beavers play in ecosystems throughout North America.
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National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Established by Congress in 1984, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) has become the largest private conservation grant-making organization. NFWF works across public and private sector in all 50 U.S. states, bringing people together to help protect and restore our country’s fish, wildlife, plants, and native habitats for the betterment of our nation and planet.
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Hawk Watch International
Hawk Watch International is dedicated to protecting raptors and their environments through long-term monitoring, scientific research, and public education on the importance of hawks and their role in ecosystems around the world. By researching migration patterns and gathering data on millions of birds, HWI is helping us understand human influence on ecosystems and the actions we can take to sustain them.
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The Jane Goodall Institute
Putting local communities first is at the heart of the work done at The Jane Goodall Institute. JGO concentrates on nine key focus areas: conservation science, advocacy, protecting chimpanzees and other great apes, public awareness and education, healthy habitats, youth leadership programs, sustainable livelihoods, research, and educating and empowering young women.
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SEE Turtles
SEE Turtles believes in building community to help protect and conserve endangered sea turtles around the world. These conservation initiatives include providing funding, education, research, and tools to aid in sea turtle protection throughout the Global South. From protecting nesting beaches to protesting the use of turtle shells in fashion, SEE Turtles is building public awareness and support for the cause.
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World Wildlife Fund
WWF works to sustain the natural world and all of the beautiful creatures in it for the betterment of humans and the world. For 60 years and in nearly 100 countries, WWF has been working with local communities and activists to promote healthier ecosystems and protect the wildlife that depend on them.
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