What are the Different Types of Endangered Wildlife?

M.C. Huguelet

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.

Manatees have become endangered because they are often killed in boating accidents.
Manatees have become endangered because they are often killed in boating accidents.

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.

All six subspecies of tigers are considered endangered.
All six subspecies of tigers are considered endangered.

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.

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The African elephant is a well-known endangered species.
The African elephant is a well-known endangered species.

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.

Coral reefs around the world are under stress from a number of factors, and more than half are at risk of dying due to human-related causes.
Coral reefs around the world are under stress from a number of factors, and more than half are at risk of dying due to human-related causes.

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.

Animals like chinchillas are endangered because they are hunted to make fur coats.
Animals like chinchillas are endangered because they are hunted to make fur coats.
The Baiji dolphin, which only inhabits China's heavily polluted Yangtze River, is believed to be functionally extinct.
The Baiji dolphin, which only inhabits China's heavily polluted Yangtze River, is believed to be functionally extinct.
Animals such as polar bears are sometimes seen as the face of the campaign to save endangered wildlife.
Animals such as polar bears are sometimes seen as the face of the campaign to save endangered wildlife.
Blue whales, the world's largest creatures, are endangered.
Blue whales, the world's largest creatures, are endangered.
Giant pandas are an endangered species.
Giant pandas are an endangered species.

Discussion Comments

Mor

@pastanaga - There are definitely some compelling arguments for commercializing endangered wildlife in different ways, but there are just as many arguments against. For one thing, creating a commercial demand for an endangered species could be seen as foolish, as there will always be people willing to take advantage of that by hunting rather than using husbandry.

Also, commercial ventures tend to concentrate on making the greatest profit possible, which isn't exactly coinciding with the best interests for the species. Genetic diversity, for example, is rarely a priority.

Not to mention this doesn't solve the issue that removing a particular species from an ecosystem will harm the ecosystem. Growing corals in tanks, for example, isn't going to help all the fish that need them to survive.

pastanaga

@irontoenail - Hopefully the word is out about honey bees though. They might be severely endangered wildlife, but domesticated honey bees still have a very good chance I think.

I've often thought that was the way to conserve a lot of species, although it's not perfect. If an endangered wildlife species are grown in farms as livestock they probably won't go extinct. But unfortunately when they become endangered people start getting attached to them as sacred and can't stand the thought of any of them being slaughtered, even in the name of their survival.

irontoenail

Humans tend to only pay attention to the big and cute animals that are endangered, like pandas and polar bears and dolphins. But there's a reason they can say that several species go extinct every day and that's because insect and fish and other, less exciting species are going extinct. Many of them are impacted by the chemicals we use every day and the changes we make to the environment and are even less able to cope than larger, more adaptable species.

But, perhaps ironically, we are going to end up missing them a lot more than polar bears which most of us would never actually see in real life.

Honey bees, for example, are so vital to our current society that it will become radically different if they die out, which they are on the verge of doing right now.

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