Background on Endangered Species


What is ‘endangered’?

A plant or animal species that is at risk of extinction from the earth is considered an endangered species. Since the year 1600, more than 700 species of plants and animals have gone extinct.

Who’s on the list?

Hundreds of animals are on the endangered species list, a few examples include:

  • African elephants
  • Asian elephants
  • Bald eagles
  • American alligators
  • Grizzly bears
  • Jaguars
  • Black rhinos
  • Blue whales, finback whales, humpback whales, sperm whales, sei whales
  • Green sea turtles, leatherback sea turtles, hawksbill sea turtles

Who decides which animals are on it?

Why do animals become endangered?

  • Habitat destruction (building of roads, parking lots, fields for cattle, etc.): The destruction of rain forests is occurring rapidly, and this is where most of the animal species in the world live.
  • Introduction of foreign species into habitat.
  • Overexploitation – many of the fish we take from the ocean cannot reproduce fast enough to recover, so they are disappearing.
  • Climate change can cause extreme weather conditions that the species cannot adapt to and therefore dies out.

How is an animal protected once it is endangered?

  • Once a species is listed as endangered, it is illegal to kill, harm or take the species out of its habitat.
  • For some species, recovery plans are created to save them from extinction.

Why should it matter to us?

  • About 40% of human medicine is made from things found in nature.
  • The Pacific yew tree was cut down and burned as trash for years, before we discovered a chemical in its bark that was promising medicine for ovarian and breast cancer.

What you can do?