Planet in Peril: Endangered Species

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Toucan in jungleThe world around us is not just going to change because of global warming, it is changing right now before our very eyes – all you need to do is open them and look to see the planet peril underway. According to the United Nations, we are currently losing species at one thousand times the natural rate of extinction. That’s up to fifty thousand species of plants and animals each year.

Thailand’s black animal market

Dealers in Thailand often get away selling rare and endangered species as a result of lax of difficult-to-enforce laws. Thailand’s Chatuchak market attracts buyers from around the world, and illegal wildlife trafficking in South East Asia spreads from Thailand’s forests to as far away South America and Africa.

Rare animals fetch high premiums

Rare animals nearing extinction often fetch high prices on the black market. South American marmosets go for $2700 each, and endangered tortoises from Madagascar fetch $500 each. The Thai police works with the National Environmental Conservation Organization to help curtail dealers efforts, but they are fighting a downhill battle. Think shark fins in soup and bear paws for ash trays. The problem doesn’t lie solely with the dealers however. There’s a reason the animal trafficking is so successful – the buyers. The business is valued at up to twenty million U.S. dollars, with American and China making up the top two importers of these illegal trades. What’s really sad? Ninety percent of animals sold as exotic pets into America die before they reach their destination.

Impact on the ecosystem

The loss of these animals doesn’t just affect their species. Entire ecosystems suffer from the loss of a species. There is no starker example of this effect than Madagascar, one of the world’s largest islands, isolated from mainland Africa for over 160 million years. Madagascar supports ninety percent of wildlife found nowhere else on the planet (since the animals can’t get off (or on) the island). Sadly, only ten percent of the natural habitat remains.

Certain animals are specific to their habitats, and have grown to survive through means dependent on their surroundings. Tree lizards, for example, have survived all this time by camouflaging themselves to look like the tree. If deforestation takes away the trees, the lizards will die out as well.

There are groups at work to protect and conserve these biodiversity hotspots. In particular, there are efforts underway to preserve the largest species of lemur, which weighs twenty pounds and can jump up to forty feet from tree to tree. These lemurs will not breed in captivity, which means if their habitat disappears, there is no way to save them.

The land supports more than just the animals

Deforestation hurts not only the animals. It also places the entire landscape in danger, which needs the forests to provide stability for the soil, which would otherwise collapse. Every year, 350 square miles of forest are destroyed. As a result, less than 10% of Madagascar’s original habitat remains.

In Madagascar, seventy percent of natives live on less than one U.S. dollar per day. They will do anything to make a buck, and sadly, the environment ends up paying the price.

But efforts are underway to restore the landscape. The government will currently protect land where new species are found. The Madagascarian RAP (Rapid Assessment Program) goes on missions to find new species, and so far they have been quite successful. Their efforts have resulted in the protection of over 8.6 million acres of land.

Alex loves nature and does his best to take care of the planet. He doesn't take for granted the serenity that can be found in the stillness of an ancient forest, or the majestic power of the ocean's large waves as they crash on an isolated island shoreline. He wants to raise awareness for how simple it can be to make a couple changes in your everyday life that can make a huge difference for the environment in the long term.

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3 Comments on "Planet in Peril: Endangered Species"

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I really wish that people would try to make this world a better place than it already is…well try to improve it, try to cut back on all of the electricity usage. Now I can go to Walmart, but all I see are people walking around texting. That is using up our resources…we aren’t going to stay like this forever!

I think that people examining this problem should not be too quick to judge. I think that many of us sitting in the first world with a decent income and a high standard of living simply cannot understand what it is like to live on a single dollar a day. The fact is that this is reality for a very large proportion of the world population. This is also the root of why people continue to participate in these crimes. Consider the fact that in Thailand a single gibbon can earn a family up to 16,000 US dollars (in some… Read more »
The actual endangered list itself actually takes several pages just to look over. It is so over laden that sorting through is best accomplished by using an alphabetized list. Many experts believe that our world is losing up to 50,000 species of plants and animals each year. This is a rate equivalent about one thousand times the natural rate of extinction. What are the reasons for such a high rate of extinction? Certainly this is not due to anything like the theory of natural selection, at least not exclusively. There are actually a number of different reasons for species to… Read more »