Endangered Species; The Cause Needs to Find a Solution
There are a plethora of endangered species on the planet today, but whose fault is it they’re almost extinct? Are humans to blame, or would the natural process of life have destroyed them regardless of our presence on Earth? The fact that we are here, and dominate, tells me that regardless of if we are the cause, we should be the solution. There are over 900 extinct species, and 16,900 endangered (3). We have the capability of slowing, or even stopping, the extinction of many animals today. All that’s required is support, effort, and will to do so. Do you want your grandchildren to see polar bears in their school’s history books, or would we like them to go to the zoo to watch them alive and well? We have already destroyed the Western Black Rhino population(1); how many more will we, as humans, be held responsible for?
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Africa’s Western Black Rhino is now officially extinct. After being a victim of increasingly devastating poaching and seeing little to no conservation efforts, the species is now gone, and others – including the Northern White Rhino and Asia’s Javan rhino – are expected to swiftly follow unless efforts to stop the senseless killing of them prevail (1). In this case, yes, it is the presence of the human population which is to blame for extinction. Had we done more, these helpless Rhinos - many simply murdered for a horn - could have continued to thrive on Earth. How many animals are we, with evidence, destroying?
Tigers were first put on the endangered species list in the 1960’s, but trophy hunting and fur trade has continued despite the heightened risk of extinction (2). Fewer than 600 Mediterranean monk seals exist and they are one of world’s most critically endangered marine mammals. Their decline can be attributed to industrial development and the establishment of resort areas along the Mediterranean Sea- but fishermen have also played their part in causing such low numbers. There are about 12,400 cheetahs in the wild today, and zero cases of cheetah attacks against humans in the wild. Yet, we still hunt them for their prized hide (4).
The classic dangerous game animal of North America, the one that features in most of the exciting stories, the grizzly bear is a subspecies of the brown bear. There are conservation efforts to preserve the subspecies, but they currently number 71,000 in the wild and are decreasing due almost entirely to hunting. Lions are classified as “vulnerable,” which is one degree better than endangered. In the last 20 years, they have declined by 30 to 50%, most of this due to industrial encroachment. There are about 15,000 of them left in the African wild (2).
Another, known as the Tasmanian tiger, was exterminated by human farmers. Many farmers believed the tigers were responsible for attacking their livestock. Killing them was considered acceptable if not encouraged. One particular wool and textile supply company called “Van Diemen’s Land Company” was in great part responsible for the eradication of the Tasmanian tiger. Polar Bears have become endangered in large part because of global warming and climate change in the Arctic. Two thirds of the population of polar bears may vanish due to a shift in weather conditions. Hunting for hides, meat, fat and flesh have also helped significantly reduce their numbers. Estimates by scientists researching polar bears and arctic habitat suggest there might be 20,000- 25,000 polar bears remaining (2). There are many cases in which humans have destroyed species, but how much evidence is out there saying we can help? The answer; a lot!
The muskox nearly became extinct because of over-hunting throughout the late 1900s until the 1930s. Fortunately, population recovery has taken place thanks to hunting regulations. WWF and its conservation partners have been instrumental in strengthening protection for the north-west Pacific gray whale. WWF succeeded in curtailing seismic surveys that were shown to displace gray whales from their feeding ground and has been urging the Russian government to establish a gray whale sanctuary off Sakhalin Island (5). There are hundreds of species whose populations have soared thanks to the Endangered Species Act. A Center study of all endangered species in the northeastern United States found that 93 percent increased or remained stable since being placed on the endangered list; this extraordinary success rate represents a fair sample that can be concluded nationwide (6). Among the species to benefit are the bald eagle (which increased from 416 to 9,789 pairs), Florida’s Red wolf (which increased from 17 to 257), and the grizzly bear (which increased from about 224 to over 500 bears in the Yellowstone area between 1975 and 2005).
There are over 100 examples where the Endangered Species Act has helped to re-populate many species, and there could be hundreds more. It is our fault a majority of these species have become endangered, if not already extinct. If we knew every human on earth was going to be extinct, yet knew there was something to do about it, would we take action then? What species needs to go on the endangered list before humans decide it’s time to do something about it? Humans are the cause, and now we need to be the solution.