Animal and plant species that are at high risk for extinction are known as endangered wildlife. Endangerment is often brought on by the alteration of a species’ habitat, which is prompted in many cases by human actions. Researchers estimate that at least ten million species are endangered worldwide, although this number could in fact be much higher due to the fact that many forms of wildlife have not even been identified yet. Nonprofit organizations, researchers, and environmentally minded legislators around the globe work to restore damaged habitats and rebuild endangered populations, but the long-term outlook for a large proportion of endangered wildlife remains dire.
Healthy wildlife habitats are governed by a natural balance in which many species coexist and renew their populations through reproduction. When a change upsets this balance, the inhabitants of the area can be seriously affected. In some cases — as with deforestation or poaching — this change can be highly visible, while at other times — as with the introduction of a foreign plant species — it is more subtle. Whether the change seems great or small, however, the results can be disastrous for the habitat’s wildlife. As one species’ food source or shelter disappears, its population begins to dwindle, subsequently affecting another species which directly or indirectly subsists on it, and so on.
Due largely to nonprofit advocacy campaigns, many people are aware of the grim straits facing certain species of endangered wildlife, particularly those in the animal kingdom. Giant pandas, blue whales, polar bears, Asian rhinos, and African elephants are examples of what may be considered the “faces” of the campaign to save endangered wildlife. It is important to remember, however, that a great many more species currently face extinction.
In truth, the great bulk of endangered species are unfamiliar to the general public. The crab-eating rat, the Acropora coral, the Yap flying fox, the Sulu woodpecker, and the Turkish frog represent just a minute selection from the large list of lesser known endangered animals. Endangered plant species are perhaps even less familiar to the average person, although they too face uncertain futures. The Bolivian mountain coconut, the pocketbook flower, the jellyfish tree, and the fountain thistle are only a tiny sample of these. If the plight of an endangered plant seems less compelling than that of an adorable panda or a stately elephant, it is crucial to remember that species large and small work together to balance a habitat.
Individuals and groups worldwide work to stem the tide of extinction through research, fundraising, education, and legislation. Due to the continuing alteration and destruction of natural habitats, the endangered wildlife list remains long. Those who wish to support endangered wildlife might consider contributing to a legitimate conservation organization or contacting their governmental representatives to encourage further protective legislation.