It's Endangered Species Day!

How much do you know about this special day to bring awareness to the current state of biodiversity around the world?

Snow Leopard, Vulnerable (IUCN)

When was Endangered Species Day founded?

May 19, 2019 marks the 13th annual Endangered Species Day. The Day was introduced by Senator Feinstein (D-Calif.) in 2006 in the United States Congress. Every year we celebrate wildlife and wild places on the third Friday of May. The resolution was a bipartisan effort co-sponsored with 12 additional senators from around the country. The resolution was also supported by 15 wildlife and environmental organizations. The day was created to "provide opportunities for people to learn about the more than 1,000 endangered species that are at risk of extinction in the United States and abroad."

How many species are facing extinction?

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a United Nations panel, recently distributed a media release with a detailed overview of the findings from their global assessment. The assessment came to grim conclusions about the state of global diversity, announcing that up to 1 million species are currently facing extinction due to human activity. This figure includes 10% of insects, >40% of amphibians, 33% of corals, sharks and their relatives, and >33% of marine mammals. So far we've lost nearly 700 mammal species since the 1500s. Roughly half of the coral (they're animals, not plants!) of the world have died since the late 1800s.

What are the threats causing so many species to decline?

Major threats to these species has come in the form of:

  • Climate change - 100% increase in greenhouse gas emissions since 1980

  • Agriculture - more than 33% of land is devoted to farming and grazing

  • Overfishing - more than 33% of the world's catch is illegal, unreported or unregulated

  • Forest loss - approximately 33% of forests lost compared to pre-Industrialization

  • Mining - more than 17,000 mining sites worldwide (terrestrial habitat destruction)

  • Offshore mining - more than 6,500 sites worldwide (marine habitat destruction)

  • Pollution - more than 80% of wastewater is released into the environment untreated

Why does biodiversity matter? Aren't we better off without dangerous animals and annoying insects?

While it might seem like a world without mosquitoes and bears might seem safer and infinitely less annoying, this just isn't true. All living organisms interact in some form with other organisms and their environments. You may have heard of a food chain or web before. Food chains and webs show the interaction of prey and predators in a habitat. When you remove an organism, a ripple effect can occur. For example, if we eradicated mosquitoes, we might have less exposure to disease, but many fish, birds, reptiles, mammals and amphibians and amphibians could suffer. Without mosquito larvae and adults to eat, they may not have enough remaining food to sustain themselves. Alternatively, if the species are more adaptable, they may tap into a new food source which could create competition with the organisms that already rely on that food source. The effects do not stop there and can have negative effects people as well.

It is imperative that we sustain as much biodiversity as we can to keep the ecosystems of the world healthy.

Is there anything we can do to help this global situation?

Even though it may seem like this issue is too big to be dealt with, there are some things we can do as individuals to help as much as we can. Engaging with you government is essential. Put pressure on your leaders to take a stand during this crisis. We are witnessing the sixth mass extinction in Earth's history. We cannot sit back and do nothing. If you're in the United States, Congress has made it easy to find your representative or senator.

In your everyday life, try your best to buy sustainably sourced food and reduce your waste (especially plastics) by using reusable items. There are also many organizations that can use your help, either as a volunteer or a donor.

If you're looking for an event to attend this Endangered Species Day, then use this search to find one near you.

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