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Human Causes of Endangered Wildlife

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3508 words Published: 18th May 2020

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A species is described as endangered when the entire population faces a serious risk of extinction. In the early twenty-first century, as human population growth, large-scale agriculture, and increasing economic development impact the planet in ways never before seen, extinctions are occurring at an unprecedented rate. The World Conservation Union has estimated that as many as 40 percent of all organisms are under some degree of threat due to habitat destruction, disease, pollution, overhunting, and overfishing, or other reasons. (Sexton et al. 1)

Unfortunately, humans now are responsible for causing permanent changes in the wildlife and habitat degradation due to deforestation for agricultural use of what used to be the home of the endangered wildlife.  Because of this, humans have destroyed the plants and habitats that animals need in order to survive.

“Forests originally covered 40% of Earth’s terrestrial surface [1], but extensive deforestation over the past 300 years has reduced this area substantially” (Prevedello et al.).

Besides deforestation another enormous factor is pollution caused by humans, according to Connolly article every year, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flows into the world’s oceans.

Just to put that into perspective just imagine the equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world (Connolly et al. 22).

Having a high quantity of plastic in their natural habitat is an immediate risk to endangered species.

Other reasons why wildlife has been in decline are hunting and poaching. Both can be very dangerous to wildlife and undoubtedly affects all countries all over the world. Hunting is done by humans and it is the act of killing or trapping an animal for the purpose of providing food resources or simply for “fun” as hunting in a lot of countries can be considered as a sport. Thankfully, in a lot of developed countries, legal hunting is controlled through laws and regulations, where you need a special permit in order to hunt and it is only practiced on the species that are not endangered. Legal hunting is generally practiced on specific seasons so it doesn’t threaten the longevity of an animal species.  On the other hand, illegal hunting has reached its peak. Illegal hunting is threatening many endangered or non-endangered animal species. 

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Poaching is undeniably the most harmful and unfair form of hunting. Poachers kill for profit and only for profit. Commercial poaching is a remarkably growing industry, where different parts or organs of animals are being sold and traded such as rhinos horn, elephant’s tusks, big and small wild cats fur, and the list extends to almost every animal species. Because of excessive poaching, the Vietnams Javan Rhino was declared extinct in 2011. Vietnam is one of the world’s largest consumers of rhino horn, contributing to the continued poaching of rhinos in the wild (“We Asked People in Vietnam why they use Rhino horn. Here’s what they said.”).

Vietnamese people mainly poach the rhino’s horn for traditional medicine use, which doesn’t have any scientific evidence of helping to cure any disease and as a status symbol.

Aside from being used for traditional medicine, rhino horn is considered a status symbol. Consumers said that they shared it within social and professional networks to demonstrate their wealth and strengthen business relationships. Gifting whole rhino horns was also used as a way to get favors from those in power. (“We Asked People in Vietnam why they use Rhino horn. Here’s what they said.”)

In a lot of other cases endangered species, mostly small mammals, are captured and held in captivity in pet trades due to peoples’ obsession of domesticating tropical animals such as monkeys, apes and small felines that are roughly the size of a regular domestic cat but with the appearance of a big wild cat.

Another harmful practice of hunting is the “Trophy Hunting”, where the animals are being killed for no particular reasons. Not because they are being used as food resources nor because it is endangering the “Human” species, but only and solemnly for our pleasure of showing a successful hunt.  Adding fuel to the fire, lots of public figures and celebrities share their successful trophies on their social media platforms, where they pose smiling next to the dead body of the animal. Whether we like or not, a lot of young folks look up to public figures and celebrities as a role model. Consciously or not, by following this social trend they (celebrities and public figures) help normalizing and destigmatizing trophy hunting.

The majority of the hunters don’t necessarily know which species of animals are endangered or not, because of this lack of knowledge, everyday numerous amount of endangered animals gets killed. With the right exposure from the media and a lot of effort from the government, things can be changed. A positive example of this is the state of New York, where is mandatory to take a class before purchasing a hunting license.

All hunter education courses require students to complete homework prior to attending the classroom and field session. Proof of the completed homework is required to attend the course. Students should register for the course well in advance of the course date to allow time to complete the homework requirement, which takes approximately three hours. All courses require successful completion of an in-person field day to earn certification for the course. (“DEC Announces state Hunter Education Courses Available Before Start of Spring Turkey Season.”)

Regrettably, this law is only applying to the species of Meleagris gallopavo, more commonly known as turkeys. If this law would apply to more species and if it was universally accepted from all the countries all over the word it would drastically help to preserve the wildlife.


Although humans are the main reason why the list of the endangered species gets bigger and bigger every year, we are not the only reason why species extinct. A loss of habitat can happen naturally. Dinosaurs, for instance, lost their habitat about 65 million years ago (“Endangered Species.”).  Another factor that has a lot to do with species extinction is the genetic variation, the inability to adapt to environmental changes.

Genetic variation allows species to adapt to changes in the environment. Usually, the greater the population of a species, the greater its genetic variation and therefore the greater the chances to survive (“Endangered Species.”).

What makes a species endangered and what are the main categories?

A species is classified as endangered when its population has declined between 50 and 70 percent. This decline is measured over 10 years or three generations of the species, whichever is longer and a species is classified as endangered when there are fewer than 2,500 mature individuals left in the wildlife (“Endangered Species.”).

After endangered species, we have the critically endangered species which the main difference is that A critically endangered species’ population has declined between 80 and 90 percent. This decline is measured over 10 years or three generations of the species, whichever is longer, also a species is classified as critically endangered when there are fewer than 250 mature individuals left in the wildlife (“Endangered Species.”).

The remaining two categories are the extinct in the wild and completely extinct.

The only differences are that the extinct in the wild species are only found in captivity and completely extinct species are nowhere to be found.

With the extinct in the wild species, there is still hope that one day these species might be re-introduced to the wild and hopefully continue to reproduce.  Something similar happened with the Wyoming toads in Michigan according to this article

At the National Amphibian Conservation Center at the AZA-accredited Detroit Zoo, forty juvenile Wyoming toads, Bufo hemiophrys baxteri, one of the most endangered amphibians in the U.S., are being raised by zoo staff. Due to disease and loss of their wetland habitat, the numbers of these toads declined dramatically over the past 30 years, and the species is now considered functionally extinct in the wild.  (“Detroit Zoo Breeds 40 Wyoming Toadlets for Recovery Program.” 88)

What roles does pollution play in habitat degradation?

Degradation is the act or process of reducing something in value or worth. Environmental degradation, therefore, is the de-valuing of and damage to the environment by natural or anthropogenic (human-induced) causes. The loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction, depletion of energy or mineral sources, and exhaustion of groundwater aquifers are all examples of environmental degradation. (Environmental degradation, 1)

Habitat degradation is undoubtedly the biggest threat to wildlife’s world. 

Our impact on the planet wildlife has never been bigger, we are inflicting unprecedented changes on the natural habitats on which wildlife depends, through deforestation and land-use changes for agricultural expansion.

One clear example that how deforestation is critical to wildlife looseness is the rain forest.

The vanishing rainforest is also of major global concern. The degradation of the rain forest–with its extensive logging, deforestation, and massive destruction of habitat–has threatened the survival of many species of plants and animals as well as disrupting climate and weather patterns locally and globally. Although tropical rainforests cover only about 5 to 7 percent of the world’s land surface, they are areas rich in biodiversity, containing about one-half of all species of plants and animals. Many pharmaceutical products have been developed from species in rainforests, but these forests hold many more potential sources that have not been discovered and studied for their medicinal or food properties. Poor forest management, lax or non-existent logging regulations, and illegal logging result in the loss of large tracts of forests each year. A 2012 report by the World Bank revealed that illegal logging alone results in the loss of an area the size of a football field every second. Political corruption facilitates the illegal timber trade, according to a 2013 investigation by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), which found that half of all timber harvested in Mozambique alone and exported to China is illegal. (Environmental degradation, 1)

Another habitat area where the human hand has help destructing is the sea and ocean life. A clear example of this is the great coral barrier.

Great Barrier Reef, largest complex of coral reef in the world, c.1,250 mi (2,000 km) long, in the Coral Sea, forming a natural breakwater for the coast of Queensland, NE Australia. Composed of more than 2,800 individual reefs, the Great Barrier Reef is separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon from 10 to 100 mi (16–161 km) wide. In some places, it is more than 400 ft. (122 m) thick. (“Great Barrier Reef.” 1)

Being one of the most gorgeous gifts from mother nature you would think that us, as humans would do anything in our power to help to preserve the barrier but sadly that’s not the case.

 The coral in the reef is threatened, however, by predation by the crown-of-thorns starfish, by damage caused by cyclones (hurricanes), by sedimentation caused by human activities, and by increasing and recurring coral bleaching due to climate change. Although the Australian government declared the reef a marine sanctuary in 1975, a 2012 study estimated that half of the coral had disappeared since 1985, with losses much greater in some areas than others. High water temperatures in the late 2010s damaged large areas, killing about a third of the reef’s corals. (“Great Barrier Reef.” 1)

Sadly, the marine biodiversity is as much in risk if not more as the inland biodiversity. Is estimated that 14 billion pounds of garbage is thrown into the ocean every year.

Next time you throw away a cigarette butt, consider this: Many of the 4.5 trillion cigarette butts thrown away each year are found in the stomachs of dead fish (Denis 5).

Because of so much garbage that gets thrown every day into the ocean, garbage patches exist. Garbage patches are a huge amount of accumulated waste in the ocean.  Scientists believe that the world’s largest ocean garbage dump is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that lies midway between Hawaii and San Francisco. Roughly the size of Texas, it contains some 2.7 million tonnes of trash (Denis 5).

How does the loss of biodiversity affect human life?

In poor words More species means fewer diseases, in other words:  Biodiversity protects ecosystems against infectious diseases, researchers have concluded. The finding suggests that loss of species from an environment could have dangerous consequences for the spread and incidence of infections, including those that affect humans (Gilbert 1).

The review analyses studies of 12 diseases, including West Nile fever and Lyme disease, in ecosystems around the world. In every study, the diseases became more prevalent as biodiversity was lost. For example, three studies showed that a decreased diversity of small mammals in an area causes the prevalence of hantaviruses — which induce fatal lung infections in humans — in host animals to rise, thereby increasing the risk to humans (Gilbert 1).

Because of this we have solicit as many individuals as we can to help to protect wildlife, natural habitats, and biodiversity, simply because of by saving the biodiversity we help protecting not only the endangered species but ourselves as well from numerous diseases.

How exactly can we help to protect wildlife and stop endangered species from extinction?

Well, there is a lot of what we can do. We could start with:

  1. Plant trees

Planting trees help to recycle oxygen, returning it to the atmosphere for us and all animals to breath. Trees also help to absorb potentially harmful gases as well.  By planting a tree, you also help in creating a habitat either permanent or temporary it helps creating home for lots of animal species.

  1. Pick up trash

Picking up trash is essential to protect the environment and the animal’s species that live within.

A lot of animals die every day because of plastic waste, a prime example are sea turtles. Because

Plastic straws that we use every day.  We can potentially help this cause by using fewer plastic straws. A good alternative for plastic straws is reusable straws and compostable straws.

  1. Recycle waste

Recycling is everyone’s responsibility. There are many reasons why we need to recycle more. Primarily when we recycle we throw less landfill, by reducing landfill we lower the chances of habitat and wildlife degradation.

  1. Donate

Help wildlife by donating to the right organization that helps to preserve wildlife and animals’ habitat. Nature preserves and wildlife areas are well-known to be short of funds because the government doesn’t pay the attention that it needs, so donate money to these non-profit organizations that help preserve the wildlife and endangered species.

In conclusion, the damage that we have done to the planet and the wildlife is irrecoverable, unfortunately. That doesn’t mean that we should stop preserving what we have left. There is still hope for wildlife.  One simple positive act cannot change the fact that wildlife diversity is declining but just like you can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples, a positive act towards saving mothers nature creatures will cause more to come.

Works Cited

  • Connolly, et al. “Plastics and Impacts on Endangered Species: What Role Might Congress Play Going Forward?” Animal Law, 2019, p. 22+. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A583998538/AONE?u=lom_oakcc&sid=AONE&xid=10735876. Accessed 17 July 2019. 
  • “Endangered Species.” National Geographic Society, 9 Oct. 2012, www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/endangered-species/. 
  • Prevedello, Jayme A., et al. “Impacts of forestation and deforestation on local temperature across the globe.” PLoS ONE, vol. 14, no. 3, 2019, Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A579457448/AONE?u=lom_oakcc&sid=AONE&xid=d50d9d92. Accessed 17 July 2019. 
  • Sexton, et al. “Endangered Species: An Overview.” Points of View: Endangered Species, Dec. 2017, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pwh&AN=28675227&site=pov-live. 
  • “Environmental degradation.” Environmental Encyclopedia, edited by Deirdre S. Blanchfield, Gale, 2011. Science In Context, https://link-galegroup-com.portal.oaklandcc.edu/apps/doc/CV2644150476/SCIC?u=lom_oakcc&sid=SCIC&xid=248d10a1. Accessed 22 July 2019. 
  • Gilbert, Natasha. “More Species Means Less Disease.” Nature News, Nature Publishing Group, 1 Dec. 2010, www.nature.com/news/2010/101201/full/news.2010.644.html
  • “DEC Announces state Hunter Education Courses Available Before Start of Spring Turkey Season.” States News Service, 2 Apr. 2019. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.portal.oaklandcc.edu/apps/doc/A580955517/ITOF?u=lom_oakcc&sid=ITOF&xid=f2f7f3e1. Accessed 24 July 2019. 
  • “We Asked People in Vietnam why they use Rhino horn. Here’s what they said.” Down To Earth, 1 May 2019. General OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.portal.oaklandcc.edu/apps/doc/A584126391/ITOF?u=lom_oakcc&sid=ITOF&xid=5e3289ad. Accessed 24 July 2019. 
  • “Great Barrier Reef.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, May 2019, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=a9h&AN=134517218&site=ehost-live&scope=site. 
  • Denis, Brian St. “Trash diving.” Alternatives Journal, vol. 35, no. 6, 2009, p. 5. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.portal.oaklandcc.edu/apps/doc/A211620664/AONE?u=lom_oakcc&sid=AONE&xid=89a50745. Accessed 24 July 2019. 
  • “Detroit Zoo breeds 40 Wyoming Toadlets for Recovery Program.” Endangered Species Update, vol. 24, no. 3, 2007, p. 88. Academic OneFile, http://link.galegroup.com.portal.oaklandcc.edu/apps/doc/A201609200/AONE?u=lom_oakcc&sid=AONE&xid=8b4d9aa8. Accessed 24 July 2019. 


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