Endangered Species

Today is an important day for animal lovers - it's National Endangered Species Day. Today is a day to learn, reflect and act. Over 26,000 species worldwide are threatened with extinction. Here we consider three species that are facing extinction due to environmental and man-made causes. The environment is our sacred space to protect and along with that responsibility all the wonderful creatures that live on our planet.

An endangered species is a species that is threatened by extinction. The reasons for extinction vary but the most common is over hunting or the destruction of the animal's habitat. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the global authority on the status of the natural world. They create and maintain something called the Red List; this list categorizes the population status of all animals and plants, those that are vulnerable and the threats to their survival. Here we explore three incredible animals in need of our help.

The Rhinoceros, also known as Rhinos, are one of the largest terrestrial animals on the planet! They can weigh over 1,000 pounds. The word rhinoceros comes from two Greek words, rhino (nose) and ceros (horn). There are only 5 species of rhinoceros, with three of them being found in Africa and other the two in various parts of Asia. Sadly, all species are on the list of extremely endangered species and some species have less than 50 individuals left. Hunting and diminishing habitat have played primary roles in the dwindling numbers of the species. If these factors are not stopped, they are sure to result in extinction of rhinos.

Orangutans are incredible and fascinating animals. The name orangutan means "man of the forest" in the Malay language. In the lowland forests orangutans live solitary existences. Orangutans are Omnivores that love to eat fruit, insects and bark. They make nests in trees of vegetation to sleep at night. Orangutans are considering critically endangered due to logging and its impact on the Orangutan's habitat. Habitat loss is the number one reason for diminishing numbers of the species. Deforestation over the last few decades has devastated orangutans. The number of orangutans has dropped by over half in the last 60 years. As they live entirely in trees, mature tropical rainforests are essential to their survival.

African Elephants are the largest animals walking the earth! Their herds wander through 37 countries in Africa. They are easily recognized by their trunk that is used for both communication and handling objects. The upper incisor teeth develop into tusks in African elephants and continue to grow throughout their lifetime. There are two subspecies of African elephants the Savanna (or bush) elephant and the Forest elephant. Savanna elephants are larger than forest elephants, and their tusks curve outwards. In addition to being smaller, forest elephants are darker and their tusks are straighter and point downward. Sadly, both species are in sharp decline due to poaching for the international ivory trade.

There are lots of big and small actions we can take every day to impact endangered species in a positive way. Using sustainable products at home and recycling as well as being aware of our water consumption are three wonderful ways to start. Helping the environment starts with the little choices we make every day - like walking instead of driving. These choices all add up to create a positive ripple effect. We are all connected and our personal decisions not only matter - they can impact to the world!