WHY SPECIES BECOME ENDANGERED: ENDANGERED SPECIES DAY 2021

Rhinoceros as an endangered species
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Some of your favorite species are currently facing threats of extinction. Every third Friday of May, Endangered Species Day is celebrated worldwide to spread more knowledge, raise awareness and take action to protect wildlife and endangered species. For Endangered Species Day 2021 which comes up this year on Friday, 21, 2021, here are 8 reasons why species become endangered and are placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

Before then, just in case you’re wondering, what exactly is an Endangered Species and this IUCN Red list of a thing???

An Endangered species is any species – animal or plant – that is at the verge of extinction, globally or within a certain geographical location. The IUCN is the body in charge of listing these species among other agencies. Species that are facing threats are classified into: Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN) and Vulnerable (VN) on the Red List.

That’s out of the way now. Let’s get into the main.

Deforestation

Deforestation is every species’ worst nightmare. The forest is the primary home for millions of plant and animal species on earth and with deforestation becoming the new normal, these species don’t stand a chance at all. According to Greenpeace in its animated series “Countdown to Destruction” with Alice Braga, an area the size of a soccer field is destroyed every 5 seconds to make room for large scale agriculture. The agricultural sector is responsible for 80% of all global deforestation. This screams every thing bad for every species on Earth.

When deforestation happens, these species lose their home, some of which are killed in the process. With this happening at a fast rate, best believe, they become endangered and close to extinction. Species like the Black Spider Monkey, Tiger and Saola are currently on the IUCN Red List because of deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest.

Climate Change

Here comes another reason why species become endangered. Climate Change. In 2019, Defenders of Wildlife published a study in the journal Nature Climate Change, where they found out that 99.8% endangered animal species are affected by climate change. Bad right? With climate change comes a whole lot of danger.

Melting of ice caps due to climate change is a reason why species become endangered
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Ice caps are melting which is a threat to species like Polar Bears in the sea-ice environment. There are lots of forest fires happening here and there thanks to the heat that comes with climate change, destroying habitats. Take the Amazon Rainforest Fire for example, we’ve seen how devastating they are. In the ocean, coral reefs are bleaching due to high levels of CO2 acidifying the ocean and increasing temperature. Sum up all these things and they lead to the endangerment of species.

Poaching

Poachers have made it their lives mission to hunt animal species in the wild. Animals are illegally hunted in large quantities and are sold on black markets at head bursting prices. There are cases of high demand in animal parts like the elephant tusk. When these animals are hunted for their parts, they’re killed in the process and those that aren’t killed are thrown back into the wild where they don’t stand a chance. Plant species are not excluded. These too are harvested from the wild and sold in markets for one reason or the other.

Pollution

Let’s take a quick look at water pollution arising from oil spills. The effects of the fossil fuel industry can also be felt on sea. The Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 is a typical example of how long this has been happening. With oil spill comes the death of thousands of species.

Pollution can also occur from the discharge of toxic effluents from industries into water bodies and other habitats, leading to death of species. Air pollution also plays its part in the endangerment of species where toxic harmful gases are inhaled by species resulting to several diseases and death. And there’s the indiscriminate use of pesticides and the likes on target and non-target species. Rachel Carson talked a whole lot about this in her book “Silent Spring.”

Ilegal Fishing

When it comes to sea creatures, the worst of the worst happens. From shark finning, to large scale harvest, to bycatch, the fishing industry is a total disaster. Netflix’s recent documentary Seaspiracy by Ali Tabrizi sheds more light on all that goes on at sea. It’s a must watch.

Pile of fish.
Large scale fishing contributes to endangerment of species
Photo by Oziel Gómez from Pexels

There’s also the problem of sea creatures being trapped by fishing gears during fishing activities where these gears are abandoned in water by the fishermen. As every species is essential to the functioning of the aquatic food chain, when one species is eliminated, the whole thing falls.

Invasive Species

From the name you can already tell what happens. These species are accidentaly and purposely introduced into a particular territory or habitat where they prey on the native species and compete for resources. According to The National Wildlife Federation, approximately 42% of species that are endangered face threat due to invasive species.

These species are usually not of that habitat or environment and are spread through various means like human activities, climate change resulting in change in rainfall and temperature patterns

Disease

And there’s also disease. Just like us humans, species are faced with one disease or another. When this happens, it spreads like wildfire, infecting populations which leads to their death.

Little To No Reproduction

A new species is meant to replace the old but in some cases, it doesn’t work out that way. This can occur naturally and at the same time because of certain alterations. Let’s take on plastics. There’s been several research linking Bisphenol A (BPA), a component of plastics, as an endocrine disruptor and affecting reproductive functions. Now, plastic pollution is wrecking havoc on the planet and with animals ingesting these plastics, you can connect that dot.

There’s also pesticides and other toxic chemicals which like plastics, contain substances capable of affecting reproductive functions. Although some of these pesticides like DDT have been banned, it doesn’t stop the effect as they are persistent in the environment. They keep travelling up the chain.

Add all these together and you have your answer.


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