Endangered Species of the World, an infographic examination
In the aftermath of Endangered Species Day we thought it was a great opportunity to go through all the ins and outs of the day and the topic that it covers.
First off let’s look at the term Endangered Species. It’s pretty self explanatory as far as titles go and it isn’t too difficult to work out what “Endangered Species Day” is. However there are some ins and outs, complications and background information that’s really interesting. With almost any topic there is always room for examination and with a topic this important it’s well worth digging deep.
We decided to use our infographics to go deep into the topic of endangered species. Read on to find Endangered Species infographics which will answer all of the questions you have and even some of the questions you didn’t know you had.
Modern Day Mass Extinction
Turn on your TV and switch to a news channel of your choice. Chances are you won’t be watching long before you hear something about the environment or an animal species in trouble. The reason for this is we are currently living through what some scientists have described as the Holocene Extinction. The sixth mass extinctinction event that we know about.
But wait, what is a mass extinction event? A mass extinction event is a time period when biodiversity on planet Earth is rapidly and dramatically reduced. The most famous of the 6 major Mass extinction events that we’re aware of is the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. Which is a more scientific name for the sudden extinction event that killed off all of the dinosaurs!
This sudden mass extinction event caused the extinction of three quarters of all plant and animal life on earth. How catastrophic is that! Imagine waking up one morning to discover 3 quarters of every plant and animal species no longer existed. What would that world look like? Sadly you might not have to imagine it for very much longer. We are currently living through an extinction event known by many as the Holocene Extinction. This is something that has been ongoing since around 10,000 BC. It may not seem as sudden as theories of asteroids but it is still happening in a very quick period of time genealogically speaking.
While not everyone agrees on direct causes or whether or not there is an extinction event going on, the facts are pretty hard to ignore. Species have been dying off at 100 times the rate of any previous mass extinction event and it is hard to avoid the fact that we are at least somewhat responsible.
Humanity, Global Superpredator
The evidence against humanity is pretty damning. Large animals, think elephants, rhinos and giraffes, were once widespread on every continent and large island on the planet, nowadays only Australia and Africa feature animals of this caliber. Now there are a few things that could cause something like this; a change in weather, a change in climate or some apocalyptic meteor strike, but the real reason is the introduction of a squishy, hairless ape to the food chain.
Human beings physically aren’t all that impressive. When you think of an apex predator you normally think lions, sharks, crocodiles. Something big, scary and full of teeth! Pretty much the opposite of us. However in terms of efficiency and greed no animal comes close to Homo Sapien. On every continent or island we have ever spread to, the local megafauna haven’t lasted for long after our arrival.
From the wooly mammoth to marsupial lions and sloth bears we’ve managed to wipe out an unfathomable number of wild, weird and wonderful animals big and small. It’s nothing to be proud of, especially considering how young our species is in the grand scheme of things.
It’s easy to blame this on our ancestors. Thousands of years ago we had no idea the impact we were having on the planet. We were just another species fighting for survival and so the widespread slaughter of every animal bigger and tastier than us can be overlooked. However the widespread destruction has been ongoing for generations. Extinction rates are still astronomical and we can no longer use ignorance as an excuse.
What is an Endangered Species?
The modern conservation movement can trace its roots to the mid 19th century. Our ancestors finally acknowledged that the number of species facing extinction was completely out of control. As the dominant species on the planet it was our duty to step in and try and reverse some of the damage we have caused (and sadly are still causing.)
Today one of the most prominent conservation organisations is the International Union for Conservation of Nature or the IUCN. The IUCN’s mission is to educate, research and campaign to help species in danger of extinction. But what is an endangered species?
An endangered species is a species which is likely to become extinct in the near future. The IUCN are responsible for the largest and most comprehensive inventory of the conservation status of biological species. This inventory, known as the red list, is where we judge the status of species’. This also raises the question of what is the difference between an endangered and a threatened species?
Within the red list there are 9 categories:
- Extinct (EX) – beyond reasonable doubt that the species is no longer extant.
- Extinct in the wild (EW) – survives only in captivity, cultivation and/or outside native range, as presumed after exhaustive surveys.
- Critically endangered (CR) – in a particularly and extremely critical state.
- Endangered (EN) – very high risk of extinction in the wild, meets any of criteria A to E for Endangered.
- Vulnerable (VU) – meets one of the 5 red list criteria and thus considered to be at high risk of unnatural (human-caused) extinction without further human intervention.
- Near threatened (NT) – close to being at high risk of extinction in the near future.
- Least concern (LC) – unlikely to become extinct in the near future.
- Data deficient (DD)
- Not evaluated (NE)
50% of the world’s species currently face the risk of extinction. Over half! Imagine if that was half the population at risk, something tells me our collective response would be much less lukewarm.
Why Save Endangered Species?
It’s a harsh question, but at the same time a good one! After all, isn’t evolution all about survival of the fittest? We’re just another species. Who can say it’s our responsibility?
Ethically speaking, if we are at fault for the danger it should be us that puts it right. As far as we know we’re the only species with the sentience to see the damage we cause and therefore we have a moral obligation to step in.
If morals and ethics don’t do it for you, there are other reasons to consider. The main one being our environment.
Any change to an ecosystem is catastrophic for the environment. Say for example, and please note this is heavily simplified for brevity, the wolf goes extinct in a region. No more wolves means the deer they prey on multiply exponentially. These deer eat and destroy vegetation and have nothing to stop their population growing completely out of control. The landscape is completely ravaged and the food chain collapses and the location is changed irrevocably.
It gets more complex than that. When the grey wolf was hunted to near extinction in the US, beaver populations in Yellowstone National Park dropped dramatically. Beavers are not the natural prey of the grey wolf so at first it’s difficult to see what’s caused this. Wolves in Yellowstone prey on elk. With their natural predators no longer around, the elk multiplied and ate many of the plants and foliage necessary to the survival of the beaver.
Still not convinced? After all, what does it matter to you if animals are being wiped out, it doesn’t have any adverse effect on you, apart from zoos being less full! Well that’s where you’re wrong. Any change to a food change has adverse effects on the plant and foliage life in the area. What happens if the rainforests are ravaged? The so-called lungs of the world and all of the medicinal plants and vegetation we rely on as a species could be gone in a matter of decades!
A balanced ecosystem is good for the planet and all the species living on it. That includes humans. That’s not even taking into account the ethical and moral considerations. Let’s be fair though, as the species responsible for most of this, the ethical and moral considerations should be enough for most of us.
Is there any hope for Endangered Species?
So far this blog has been extremely doom and gloom. With the rate of extinction being what is, is it time to give up the ghost and spend money on areas with more hope? But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The situation shouldn’t come across as completely hopeless. Whilst it’s unavoidable that we have caused long term damage, and for some species the ship has sailed, there is still hope. Conservation work has never been more promising.
As public education grows and the money and technologies afforded to conservation organisations increases, animal conservation as a movement has recorded some real victories and big wins. There’s a long way to go but we could be on the right path!
The World Wildlife Federation recently reported on 10 of the biggest wins of the last decade that should give us hope for some of the species which we once thought were lost causes. Here’s some of the key wins;
- Elephant Ivory Bans
One of the most recognisable megafauna left on the planet. The elephant is still to this day one of the most at risk species to walk the earth. The situation today is bleak, however at the start of the decade it was hopeless. The ivory trade, legal and illegal, loomed large and was responsible for the deaths of 35,000 african elephants every year.
Work remains to be done but governments around the world have started to treat this as a serious crime, with punishments befitting the crisis. The United States banned ivory trading in 2016 and China followed with a ban in 2018. This means that the financial gains for poaching have been severely hampered, whilst the risks and punishments have increased. For the first time in a long time things may be looking up for the elephant!
- Tigers making a comeback!
In the early 1900s, the world had an estimated population of over 100,000 tigers. By 2010 that number had reduced to just 3200 in the wild. Numbers have been in a free fall for years, leading to the TX2 conference in St. Petersburg. At this conference, conservation groups and governments set an aim to double the population of wild tigers by 2022.
For the first time in over a century, the wild population of tigers in the world is on the rise. These beautiful creatures are still at risk but again prospects look good to meet the targets set out!
- The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement doesn’t affect one species in particular, rather faces the largest risk facing all species; man made climate change. In 2015 an agreement was signed by 179 nations to fight climate change. While Donald Trump took America out of the agreement, Joe Biden committed to reversing the decision which has been seen by many to be a very good decision.
There are dozens if not hundreds of little victories we have seen over the last decade. Whilst there is obviously a long way to go, the path is clear and there are definite signs that conservation works!
What Can I Do to Help Endangered Species?
Ok so you aren’t a huge multinational corporation or trust. You haven’t got the time or money to traipse off to the rainforest and stare down a bulldozer or fight poachers. What can an ordinary man, woman or child like yourself do to help species which are sometimes on a completely different continent?
Believe it or not it is extremely simple. The steps listed below may seem small and inconsequential, but if we all took them up we’d go a long way to helping our planet and the species which live on it.
- Educate yourself and others! Take some time and research your local endangered species and the ones further afield. Guess what? You’ve made a great first step in reading this blog, so good job!
- Recycle and buy sustainably. This one also requires some research. Buy green products and keep recycling. This limits habitat destruction and often takes money out of the hands of those companies that put profit over nature.
- Drive Slow. Chances are you don’t live anywhere you are likely to collide with an elephant or tiger. Still there are hundreds of species in danger in your country and many of these will be closer at hand than you think. Avoiding speeding and driving cautiously especially at night is a great way to protect wildlife in your area.
- Speak Up! Get writing and emailing. Send emails and letters to your local paper and your government representatives. This keeps the pressure up to do the right thing!
- Never Purchase items from Endangered Species! If you’ve travelled abroad chances are you’ve seen market stalls and shops containing animal contraband of some sort or another. It can seem like a good souvenir, especially if you think it is fake, but it’s always best to be cautious and avoid these things.
- Protect Habitats! The most important thing to protecting endangered species is to protect the places they live. If we protect delicate and at risk habitats, we save whole communities of animals.
What Endangered Animals Live in America?
The Endangered Species Act lists over 2000 species which are currently listed as threatened or endangered. Of that number 1601 call the United States home.
Here are 5 of the most endangered species in the United States that we think you should know about.
- Red Wolf
The red wolf was technically extinct in the wild in 1980. Through a mammoth effort from the department of fish and game the red wolf was successfully reintroduced to the wild. Whilst this is cause for celebration, there is still a long way to go. The animal remains critically endangered.
- Kemp’s Ridley Turtle
The smallest species of sea turtle is also one of the most endangered. Found in the gulf of Mexico, these little turtles are critically endangered, largely due to overharvesting of their eggs.
- Florida Panther
These creatures may look a little bit scary but it doesn’t change the fact that they need your help. These residents of the sunshine state are currently in grave danger of extinction. Only 100-180 of these panthers still exist in the wild.
- Bog Turtles
Despite the fact that these cute critters are critically endangered, they are still a target for the pet trade. Always perform research when looking for pets, especially amphibians and reptiles
- Giant Sea Bass
Although they are now legally protected it may be a case of too little too late for these giant fish.
That’s that! A comprehensive guide to everything you need to know about Endangered Species, what you can do to help them and why we should help them in the first place. Think you can come up with some good infographics on this topic? We’d love to see them!
If we’ve missed out some info or some of your favourite examples then please let us know!