By Juliana L.
The Earth is home to a variety of different animals. Each animal has their own role to play in their environment. Some animals maintain the population of their prey. Some animals contribute by keeping the surrounding plants healthy. Despite the important roles they play, many animals are nearing extinction. Harmful actions such as poaching, habitat loss, and pollution have caused the population of many animals to decrease. If these 7 animals in particular go extinct, their environments could permanently change. Various species could begin to overpopulate, forests could be cut down, important food sources could be lost, and that’s only some of the possible outcomes. The extinction of these 7 animals could make way for these dangerous outcomes, so it is important for them to be talked about.
Polar Bears are listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). What this entails is that polar bears are one rank away from being considered endangered. To make matters worse, the polar bear population is decreasing, getting ever closer to that endangered label. The main causes for the declining population are habitat loss and climate change. With the icecaps melting, it becomes harder for polar bears to find food. With polar bears being the apex predator of their habitats, they need to eat to not only sustain themselves but to also control the population of their prey. If polar bears go extinct, the population of their prey could skyrocket out of control. Animals such as seals will have no animals to control their population, leading to overpopulation. What’s especially concerning is the effect seals have on their habitat. Seals break holes into icecaps as a way to breathe. If there were no polar bears to control the seal population, seals could break as many holes as they needed, contributing to the already-damaged icecaps. However, we shouldn’t be too worried about a possible seal-uprising. There is still much being done to save polar bears. If you want to help, try spreading awareness about climate change and global warming. Try to turn off your electronics when you aren’t using them as well as unplugging any unused wires to save energy.
Unlike some of the other animals on this list, most bees aren’t listed as endangered. However, the rapid decline of bees overall should not be overlooked. Overall, the total population of bees has declined by 25% since the 1990’s. The causes of this rapid decline consist of pesticides, disease, and habitat loss. Pesticides are rather self-explanatory. When people spray pesticides on crops, it poisons the bee that lands on it and kills it. Pesticides have also been linked to a serious disorder called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). CCD is an unusual disorder where bees suddenly die out or abandon their hive. CCD is one of many diseases that plague bees all over the world. Another concerning issue for bees is the loss of their habitat. With many bee habitats being cut down to make way for urbanization, it becomes harder for bees to find plants to pollinate. This is worrying since plants need bees to pollinate them so they can grow and produce food or seeds. When you realize how many factors contribute to the declining population of bees, you begin to understand how important it is for us to keep bees safe. Bees play massive roles in maintaining their ecosystem as a whole. Bees contribute by pollinating plants, allowing them to grow. They also produce honey, a food source for many species such as racoons, birds, insects, and humans to feast on. Bees also serve as a source of prey for many birds and insects, providing them with a meal. If bees went extinct, the effects would be permanently life-altering for many species. However, we can stop the decline the bees in different ways. You can start a garden, donate to charity, or support local beekeepers.
Almost all species of sea turtles have been classified as endangered by the IUCN. The reasons for the small populations are due to poaching, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Many sea turtles are killed for their eggs, shells, and meat. On top of this, urbanization on beaches has made it very difficult for sea turtles to lay eggs. Finally, the tremendous amount of pollution in the ocean entangles sea turtles, causing them to possibly lose their ability to swim or eat. Even climate change poses a treat to sea turtles. The warmer the temperature, the more likely the offspring of a sea turtle is to be female. If only female sea turtles are born, the reproduction rate would drop significantly. Sea turtles play a role in maintaining the environment they inhabit. For example, the endangered green sea turtle feasts on various sea grasses and algae to maintain their healthiness, prevent overgrowth, and allow other organisms to nest in the bed. This eaten seagrass and algae can then be recycled into a variety of nutrients that benefit surrounding organisms. With the major role sea turtle play, it’s crucial that we try and help save them. Remember not to pollute the ocean and to keep the ocean clean.
The red panda has been classified as endangered for thirteen years. With only about 10,000 remaining and a decreasing population, it’s becoming even more important that red pandas are talked about. Many red pandas fall victim to poaching due to the uniqueness of their pelt. The one-of-a-kind pelt of the red panda attracts many poachers who kill the panda and sell its pelt for a profit. However, the leading cause of the dwindling population is habitat loss. Approximately half of all red pandas reside in the Himalayas: a mountain range spanning several countries in Asia. The loss of trees from their natural habitat has greatly affected their way of living. Red pandas use trees for housing and food. In fact, 95% of the red panda’s diet consists of bamboo. The loss of food and habitat is making it harder for red pandas to thrive in their natural habitats. Luckily, there are several countries, such as China, Bhutan, Myanmar, and India who host protected areas for red pandas. There are also efforts to establish a protected area in Nepal, which holds 1/3 of all red pandas in the Himalayas. If you want to help, you can check out the many different websites and organizations that are helping the red panda.
The critically-endangered vaquita is the rarest animal on this list. The vaquita is the smallest and rarest cetacean in the world. With less than ten remaining and little notoriety, it is important to talk about them. Vaquitas live in the northern part of the Gulf of California, their only known habitat. This limited habitat has caused problems for the small population. One major problem for vaquitas is gillnets. A gillnet is a long strip netting that hangs underwater used to trap fish. The netting holes are designed to be large enough to only fit a fish’s head, not its body. The fish then becomes stuck and harvested. The small size of the vaquita, clocking in at only 5 feet tall and weighing 120 pounds on average, allows for it to get tangled in these nets, leading to its death. What’s saddening about this is that most gillnets aren’t even meant to catch vaquitas. You may think that, since vaquitas are so low in population, it is impossible to save them. However, we can still save vaquitas from extinction. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) are trying to ban gillnetting from the vaquita’s habitat. You can help by supporting the WWF or spreading awareness.
The endangered sea otters play a big role in maintaining their environment. In fact, they play such a big role that they have been dubbed a keystone species. A keystone species is an organism that many other species rely on. If a keystone species goes extinct, the ecosystem it inhabited would change permanently, typically for the worse. Sea otters help their environment by controlling the population of their prey. They do this by consuming their prey of sea urchins. By continuously eating sea urchins, sea otters prevent the overpopulation of said species. Without sea otters, sea urchins would overpopulate and destroy the nearby kelp forest ecosystems. The destroyed ecosystems would cause a loss of food for many other species. So, by eating sea urchins, sea otters maintain whole ecosystems. However, sea otters are still facing a variety of threats. Shark attacks, disease, pollution, oil spills, and fishing competitions constantly threaten the lives of sea otters. Overall, the most prominent threats to sea otters are caused by humans. Oil spills and habitat pollution have put sea otters’ habitat on the line. Fishing nets and pollution pose a threat to the lives of sea otters. However, as humans, we can also do much to help the sea otters. Remember not to litter and be mindful of what you throw out. If you can recycle something, make sure you do so.
Known as the rarest cats on Earth, the critically-endangered amur leopards are on the brink of extinction. With only a little more than eighty left on Earth, it’s important that they are talked about more. Threats to the Amur Leopard consist mainly of deforestation and poaching. Amur Leopards live primarily in forests in Russia and China. These forests have been facing deforestation for years. Losing these forests would prove deadly to every species in the forest, including amur leopards. Amur leopards have the job of maintaining the population of their prey. By eating their prey, amur leopards prevent many different species from overpopulating. Losing these forests would leave many different species without a natural habitat, including amur leopards. On top of this, amur leopards are a frequent target for poaching. The main reason is their thick and unique pelt. Luckily, safe areas have been put in place for amur leopards to freely roam around in. There have also been successful attempts to increase the number of amur leopards. Such attempts consist of anti-poaching clubs, protected areas, and successful conservation studies. The increasing numbers prove that it isn’t too late to save these big cats. By spreading awareness and donating to charities, you can help play a part in saving these leopards.