The Threat of Extinction

A wooded scene.

Since we started living on our planet, thousands of species have become extinct – and there’s no reason to believe that this will stop happening anytime soon. The question isn’t whether or not it will happen, but rather how we can prevent the extinction of these species and preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

Humans are harmful

The number one threat to wildlife is humans, either through habitat destruction or hunting. In recent years, poaching has become a major issue in certain areas around Africa and Asia. The illegal sale of ivory on black markets around these regions is threatening elephants, especially in East African nations like Kenya and Tanzania. Because ivory is such a valuable commodity, poachers will hunt down an elephant for its tusks. This alone contributes to declining populations all over these countries — but it doesn’t stop there. Poachers have also been known to kill rare rhinos for their horns which are coveted as a treatment for various ailments in China and Vietnam; even lions have been shot down to use their bones in traditional medicine.

In some places, it’s already too late

Scientists warn that, due to human activities, more than 75 percent of all known species could be extinct by 2100. What can we do to stop a mass extinction event? There are several things we can do, both individually and collectively: You can start by spreading awareness about endangered species among your friends and family—and ask them to do the same! This is particularly important because people tend to care more about something when they feel like it’s threatened in some way. They need to know that hundreds of thousands of living creatures are at risk—and if everyone does their part, maybe we can save them from extinction.

There is hope

Humanity is causing species to go extinct at a rate much faster than can be replaced, which means we may lose half of all living species in as little as three generations. But there’s still hope for saving animals and plants from extinction. We just need to start learning from each other’s successes—for example, Australia has had success in its conservation efforts because it looks at protecting animals and plants across their full habitat range, instead of focusing solely on small pockets where they’re found now. A similar approach has worked wonders with bald eagles and grey wolves; they were considered endangered just a few decades ago but now thrive around much of North America because humans stopped hunting them so aggressively and protected their habitat–Let’s hope that continues for future generations.

How do we stop extinction?

With respect to terrestrial and marine species, humans have caused roughly one extinction per million species since prehistory (that number could be as high as 1.7), but, in recent decades, with more people and industry in contact with wild ecosystems, that rate has increased to 10 extinctions per million species. While there are many threats to our planet’s biodiversity—from climate change to habitat destruction—the problem is that we’re simply running out of space for new species. That’s why we must take a proactive approach when it comes to protecting those species currently at risk: If they go extinct, they won’t get a second chance.

Some ideas that might help…

Setting aside a piece of land to conserve it and its plants and animals is a great way to prevent extinction, but it’s often not easy. Governments have enough on their plates already trying to keep their people healthy and safe; sometimes what gets in the way are economic pressures. A good example would be Madagascar, almost all of Madagascar’s reptile and amphibian species, half of its birds, and all of its lemurs are endemic to the island; meaning they are rare. Despite the aforementioned, it is losing its flora and fauna at an alarming rate. Even if you are not living in Madagascar, you can find out about the indigenous species of flora and fauna in your area and find out if you can help preserve the species in some way.

Michele Mitchell

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