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Our planet is facing an extinction crisis that is almost entirely human-caused. Scientists and conservation experts estimate that Earth is currently in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals within the past half-billion years. In other words, we’re currently experiencing the worst epidemic of mass species die-offs since the dinosaurs began their decline 65 million years ago.
Though extinction is a natural part of life, if left to its own devices, Earth loses species at a “background” rate of approximately one to five per year. However, biologists warn we’re now losing species at an estimated 1,000 to 10,000 times the background rate, with literally dozens going extinct every day.
As an animal lover, you’re undoubtedly alarmed by these statistics. Preserving our planet’s biodiversity is important to our environment, as well as the health of the living things it supports. So what are some ways you can get involved and protect endangered species?
How You Can Help Save Endangered Wildlife
- Avoid buying products made from endangered animals. All over the world, illegal wildlife trading operations remain in business due to high consumer demand for products containing parts from endangered or at-risk species like elephants, tigers, sea turtles, rhinos, sharks and whales. Keep a watchful eye out for any vendors selling items such as reptile skins, ivory, sea turtle shells, shark fins and beluga caviar. Conservation organizations have developed apps such as Wildlife Witness and WildScan to allow people to help police the illegal wildlife trade. Be a responsible consumer and download these apps so you can report this type of illegal activity whenever you see it.
- Don’t buy pets if you don’t know their origin. Ongoing trade in wild-caught exotic animals has a huge effect on population numbers in the wild. Even buying wild-caught animal species from legal sources increases demand and encourages illegal trading.
- Support conservation groups and programs. By volunteering with, or donating money to, wildlife conservation organizations, you can help them make progress in their mission to protect threatened species and habitats.
- Reduce your carbon footprint. Global climate change is the biggest threat to all living things on our planet. You can significantly reduce your carbon footprint by switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet; recycling and composting household waste whenever possible; reducing your energy and water use; and walking, biking or using public transport instead of driving everywhere.
Endangered Reptiles: A Closer Look
Though conservation organizations haven’t studied endangered reptiles as closely as they have many other at-risk animals, the International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that globally, 21 percent (594 species) of the total evaluated reptiles in the world are endangered or vulnerable to extinction.
In the United States, 32 reptile species are at risk, about 9 percent of the total. Island reptile species have been dealt the hardest blow, with at least 28 island reptiles having died out since 1600.
Get Involved: Conservation Organizations
If you’re inspired to donate to or volunteer with a conservation organization working to protect endangered animals and their ecosystems, here are some to get you started. There are so many of these worthy groups that we’re barely scratching the surface with this list, so be sure to do your own research to find causes that are close to your heart.