The Carolina parakeet, the Caribbean monk seal, the passenger pigeon and the dodo once roamed the Earth. These animals are gone now. Their numbers dwindled, the species became endangered and finally went extinct. These are not the only animals to disappear from the planet. Species become endangered all the time. By protecting endangered animals we ensure not only their survival but also the biodiversity that is necessary for the ecological health of the planet.
The Utah Education Network estimates that around 125 species of birds and 60 species of mammals have gone extinct since 1600, and around 1,000 species are currently facing extinction. Extinction is permanent. Once an animal goes extinct, its benefit to the food chain and the natural balance of the ecosystem is gone forever.
Protect Ecological Balance
Many ecosystems exist on Earth. Different species of plants and animals make up the biodiversity within ecosystems. Biodiversity allows an ecosystem to function well and recover from natural disasters quickly. For humans, biodiversity also offers more choices in cropping, farming and the possibility of discovering new medicines. When an animal becomes extinct, the delicate ecological balance between predators and prey within an ecosystem is upset, sometimes making that system more vulnerable to population explosions of invasive species.
Medicine and Scientific Advancement
Many species of plants and animals contain chemicals that scientists have used to create medicines that fight cancer, heart disease, genetic disorders and several other illnesses. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 25 percent of all prescriptions written each year in the United States contain chemicals discovered in plants and animals. Scientists are studying the use of poison from spiders in treating illnesses. Venom from the Asian pit viper may help stop the spread of melanoma, and venom from tarantulas may fight neurological disorders such as Parkinson's disease. The cancer-fighting medicine, Taxol, comes from the Pacific yew tree. By not protecting endangered animals, we may lose out on the chance to discover potentially life-saving medicines.
Counteract Human Involvement
A species can become endangered and go extinct naturally. A change in the climate can cause an animal to die out, creating a niche for a new species to evolve that may be better adapted to survive than the first. However, the majority of animals on the endangered species list today are the result of human activities. Human expansion often robs animals of their natural habitat. Large-scale hunting and fishing can deplete a species' numbers. By taking steps to protect endangered animals, humans can counteract some of the damage done in the past.
- Photo Credit seal image by Janet Wall from Fotolia.com
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