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Causes of Endangerment

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Wild animals are beautiful creatures with varying sizes, colors, and habitats. Although some can be seen in zoos, the place they are meant to be is in their own environment. Unfortunately, animals such as whales, panda bears and sea otters, are not always safe in these places and are dying out. What is causing their threat of extinction? Several factors have an influence on this growing problem.

When discussing the causes of endangerment, it is important to understand that individual species are not the only factors involved in this dilemma. Endangerment is a broad issue, one that involves the habitats and environments where species live and interact with one another. Although some measures are being taken to help specific cases of endangerment, the universal problem cannot be solved until humans protect the natural environments where endangered species dwell. There are many reasons why a particular species may become endangered. Although these factors can be analyzed and grouped, there are many causes that appear repeatedly.


I found it amazing, when I was doing research on wild animal endangerment, what information is out there. I have done extensive research on this topic because it really struck home with me. I have been helping to rescue animals for several years and realized that the issue of animal endangerment goes just beyond domestic pets.Three hundred and fifty wild species have been lost on our planet in the last fifteen years.

Beautiful, sometimes dangerous, they are an essential part of our global eco-system. Each fills a place that is part of our inter-dependent planetary survival.


Sometimes a danger that affects a wild species may be survivable, but the danger can be transferred to a domestic or semi-domestic species. This applies in the case of the wild bumblebee. It can survive the varrao mite but that mite kills the Honey bee.

Travel by humans and the transportation of goods can bring dangerous diseases from one part of the world to another. For example the transportation of rabid racoons from Florida to Georgia by hunters has encouraged that rabid disease to travel north to Canada's Eastern Provinces.


We are all familiar with the efforts made to rescue seabirds and mammals from oil spills. South Africa made a huge and successful effort to clean and rehabilitate penguins after an offshore oil spill. Excessive warming of the planet is a less visible killer. Some species are abandoning their traditional migration routes. Alternatively they depart later and return earlier thus damaging their nesting instincts and our reliance on nature's pollinators to seed the earth.

Wetlands, forests and other areas of wilderness habitat are rapidly diminishing. For example the Gran Chaco of Brazil is being transformed into farmland, displacing both wildlife and its indigenous peoples. Natural environmental change is slow and allows nature and animals in the wild to adapt. Turning wilderness areas into farmland leaves no time for adaptation and the animals become homeless and threatened.


Hunting, trapping, and poisoning to protect livestock have taken a great toll among predatory mammals and birds. Overharvesting is currently threatening species worldwide, especially food fish species such as the cod. A large number of species are threatened by introduced species, or “exotics,” plants or animals wich bring with them diseases or the ability to compete more effectively than native species.

Another important threat is destruction of habitat by chemical pollutants. For example, bird populations have suffered great losses because of insecticides. The chemicals they contain, such as DDT, accumulate in birds' bodies and interfere with calcium metabolism. As a result, the females lay eggs with extremely thin shells or no shells at all, so the embryos do not survive to hatching. Acid rain has destroyed the habitats of many North American fish and amphibians by lowering the PH of surface waters. It is also changing the soil chemistry and harming many tree species.

Most serious of all, the destruction of physical habitat—by the drainage and filling of swamps and marshes, by the damming of rivers, by the leveling of forests for residential and industrial development, by strip mining, and by oil spills and water pollution—has left many creatures with literally no room in which to live and breed.


Habitat destruction

Our planet is continually changing, causing habitats to be altered and modified. Natural changes tend to occur at a gradual pace, usually causing only a slight impact on individual species. However, when changes occur at a fast pace, there is little or no time for individual species to react and adjust to new circumstances. This can create disastrous results, and for this reason, rapid habitat loss is the primary cause of species endangerment.

The strongest forces in rapid habitat loss are human beings. Nearly every region of the earth has been affected by human activity, particularly during this past century. The loss of microbes in soils that formerly supported tropical forests, the extinction of fish and various aquatic species in polluted habitats, and changes in global climate brought about by the release of greenhouse gases are all results of human activity.

It is hard to identify or predict human effects on individual species and habitats, especially during a human lifetime, but it is quite apparent that human activity has

greatlyto species endangerment.

For example, although tropical forests may look as though they are lush, they are actually highly susceptible to destruction.

It may take Centuries to re-grow a forest that was cut down by humans or destroyed by fire, and many of the world's severely threatened animals and plants live in these forests.


Introduction of exotic species

Native species are those plants and animals that are part of a specific geographic area, and have ordinarily been a part of that particular biological landscape for a lengthy period of time. They are well adapted to their local environment and are accustomed to the presence of other native species within the same general habitat. Exotic species, however, are interlopers. These species are introduced into new environments by way of human activities, either intentionally or accidentally. These interlopers are viewed by the native species as foreign elements. They may cause no obvious problems and may eventual be considered as natural as any native species in the habitat. However, exotic species may also seriously disrupt delicate ecological balances and may produce a plethora of unintended yet harmful consequences.

The worst of these unintended yet harmful consequences arise when introduced exotic species put native species in jeopardy by preying on them. This can alter the natural habitat and can cause a greater competition for food. Species have been biologically introduced to environments all over the world, and the most destructive effects have occurred on islands. Introduced insects, rats, pigs, cats, and other foreign species have actually caused the endangerment and extinction of hundreds of species during the past five centuries. Exotic species are certainly a factor leading to endangerment.



Because animals are all intertwined on the food chain, contamination of a water source that a species drinks for example, will not only effect them, but the animal that eats them as well, having the ability to cause cancer and other deadly diseases. If a mother drinks toxins, they become apart of her milk and she passes on those toxins to her babies. Because the off spring are considerably smaller than the mother, these chemicals and toxins will have a greater negative impact on them. Among these problems is a shorter life span, directly effecting the time they have to reproduce and multiply their species, not to mention the damage the pollutions have already caused on their systems and ability to thrive.

Contamination of water due to oil spills is another large problem. Because oil and water do not mix, and oil floats to the top and spreads easily and quickly, it is that much harder to clean up. Oil spills may be due to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, or can happen by people who do not want to dispose of oil properly and dump it into the ocean to get rid of it. Birds can be covered and will not be able to fly because of their feathers being covered. Oil covers sea otters and coats their fur, covering the air bubbles in their fur which are there to help them stay warm in freezing waters. Due to the oil coating these bubbles they die of hypothermia. So many different animals dying in mass quantity from oil spills also contributes to animal endangerment.


Hunting, Fishing and Whaling

One of the greatest effects on water animals, such as whales, is exploitation. Exploitation is decreasing a particular species faster than nature is able to replace the population. Whaling has been a large contributor to the decrease of whales in the ocean. This unrestricted hunting or whaling purpose was for their skin, fur, teeth, meat or other reasons. Although some organizations, such as the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have been established, as well as laws and regulations, people do not always follow these laws and whales are still hunted. Animal parts make a lot of money and illegal activities pursued for the money that people can make.

In Japan whale is still a popular dish and hunted for consumption. Along with whaling, other fishing takes place. Large nets for fishing can entangle species they are not meant to capture, nor desired to capture. These lives are lost as a negative by product of mass commercial fishing efforts. The large commercial fishing takes out so many animals, so quickly that they can not replace themselves.

Human carelessness seems to be the overriding influence on all these factors.

As people are concerned about the impact that their choices and actions make on wild life, their habitats and environments will be protected. People taking precautions will effect the environment for humans and wild animals alike.


In conclusion, disease, pollution, and limited distribution are more factors that threaten various plant and animal species. If a species does not have the natural genetic protection against particular pathogens, an introduced disease can have severe effects on that specie. For example, rabies and canine distemper viruses are presently destroying carnivore populations in East Africa. Domestic animals often transmit the diseases that affect wild populations, demonstrating again how human activities lie at the root of most causes of endangerment. Pollution has seriously affected multiple terrestrial and aquatic species, and limited distributions are frequently a consequence of other threats.

Populations confined to few small areas due to of habitat loss, for example, may be disastrously affected by random factors.