Every animal is a part of an intricate ecosystem that includes our lands and waters. Losing even one of those parts, causes severe damage to the ecosystem. It’s necessary to ensure the survival of these ecosystems because they provide clean water, breathable air, fertile soils, climate control, and energy.
There are many organizations in place that are working to protect endangered species and their habitats; unfortunately, their attempts have only been mildly successful in repairing the damages. Currently there are 41,415 species endangered around the world, increasing by 16,118 species in one year alone (National Geographic Society). Endangered species are technically defined as: a type of organism that is threatened by extinction. Species become endangered for two main reasons:loss of habitat and loss of genetic variation (National Geographic Society). Of these two main factors in the endangerment of species, the destruction, or pollution, of the animals native habitat is most commonly occuring because of humans.
Two of the many species on the endangered list that are affected by loss of habitat are the polar bears and the bees. Polar bears plays a very important role in the Arctic Circle. They ensure that seals, and other prey, do not overpopulate the Arctic. If polar bears were to go extinct, the population levels of walruses, seals, and whales would increase drastically and become a problem for the remaining wildlife (Polar Bear). There is very little vegetation in the Arctic Circle; if the apex predator was eliminated and the herbivore population increased, there would not be enough vegetation to feed them all. Like the polar bears, bees also have an essential role in the ecosystem. They are the primary, and most effective, species that fertilize many edible plants. Their extinction would affect plants, animals, and humans alike. Without bees there would not be enough plants on the planet for the survival of humans or animals (Daftardar). With the decline in plant populations, the herbivores would eventually go extinct, leading to the carnivores to follow in suit.
What are we doing to save the endangered species around the world? In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act or ESA (Protecting the Endangered Species Act). The implementation of this act recognizes that endangered and threatened wildlife and plants are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people (Protecting the Endangered Species Act). The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover endangered species and in turn, the ecosystems they affect. While this organization was in affect, 190 countries met and debated for 11 years deciding which strategic goals to implement. Their plan is to give greater protection to the natural world and enshrine the benefits it gives to humankind in a legally binding code of protection (Countries Join Forces to Save Life on Earth).
These 190 countries all agreed to extend national parks to increase the area of protected land in the world from 12.5 percent to 17 percent, and the area of protected oceans from 1 percent to 10 percent by 2020 (Countries Join Forces to Save Life on Earth). The main goal is to get all species on the threatened list further from extinction, and eventually off of the list. Environment ministers from the many states all agreed on rules for sharing the benefits that result from nature’s resources, and dividing them through both governments and companies equally. One main idea that comes from the new protocol is to set up a new fund from the profits made of products from biological material in natural habitats in the developing world.
The effectiveness of the government implemented programs is highly controversial. The ESA has claimed that with their help species with critical habitat for two or more years were more than twice as likely have an improving population trend in the late 1990s, and less than half as likely to be declining in the early 1990s, as a species without (Effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act: A Quantitative Analysis | BioScience | Oxford Academic). In actuality, species that had recovery plans did improve but over four years as opposed to two. Over the 1990s, more species improving increased, despite the help of the ESA. Critics of the ESA argue that the small amount of endangered species actually recovering under their care, is an indication of failure. Other believe it is not a success because only a minute number of species have been protected by the ESA long enough to reach a recovery. The prevention of extinctions is an important accomplishment, but does not prove whether the ESA is effective in aiding species towards recovery. The 20 key goals of the 190 countries have yet to be implemented but they are already proving to be a challenge. Third world countries, especially those in Africa, argued that natural resources in the past had gone to the developed countries and not themselves. These poorer countries insisted they had to be compensated for the increased spending on the conservation of natural habitats. If these countries do not agree to the goals, the endangered species in this large portion of the world will not begin to recover.
Moving a species off of the endangered list is not something that can be achieved in one day alone. Helping these animals takes years, but there are many ways to assist in their recovery. Because of the limited success from the ESA, increasing governmental funding and prompting provision of critical habitat and recovery plans will be helpful over time. To give these organizations the funding they need, all countries should be required to set aside money for funding. Third world countries that are struggling should be required to set aside less while the first world countries set aside more. Many of these states will argue they should not be required to give more than the other countries, but if the minimum amount is set aside by all, the animals will never have the opportunity for success.
Government programs are not the only way to help these animals, civilians have a large impact as well. Little things such as driving less and volunteering at your local wildlife center also aids in creating a sustainable environment for all animals. Because much of what threatens animals populations is their habitat being plundered for the creation of new good, recycling and buying sustainable products limits the negative effect on the ecosystems. Ensure local species are not in danger of becoming endangered by growing plants. Not only does this provide shelter and food for wildlife but this also attracts more bees to pollinate the flowers. Reduce the amount of water used and understand that clean water is a global problem for all wild animals, not only during droughts but any time of year. Animals often get tangled in plastics bought and discarded by humans; reducing, or eliminating, the amount of plastics bought will ensure that no plastics travel to the oceans and kill off ocean dwelling animals. Wildlife refuges are often understaffed and underfunded. Volunteering at such an organization will protect animals rights and educate the public. Educating the public is the most important step in aiding endangered animals. Helping fund organizations that focus on educating everyone regarding the magnitude of this problem will ultimately ensure that more people care and help in getting these animals help and off of the endangered list.
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