The changing climate due to global warming has created many changes in our eco-system that include everything from rising sea levels, warmer oceans and longer, more intense droughts. All of this affects the animals that live in our eco-system and has caused certain species to go extinct and left others vulnerable to extinction. Animal’s food sources have been compromised or depleted, habitats have been taken away from them and the warmer temperatures have forces animals to migrate to cooler climates just to survive. The extinction of animals effects us all since every plant and animal plays a crucial role in the balance of the ecosystem that we live.
Experts predict that 25% of Earth’s species will be at risk for extinction by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise at current rates. There are over 700 species that have become extinct over the past couple hundred years including:
Golden Toad – The Golden Toad lived in Costa Rica and became officially extinct in 1999. It was the first documented species to become extinct as result of pollution and global warming.
Madeiran Large White Butterfly – Found in the forests of Portugal’s Madeira Islands, this butterfly became extinct in 2007 due to habitat loss and pollution from agricultural fertilizers.
Tecopa Pupfish – This was the first animal to be declared extinct under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. This fish was from the Mojave Desert and became extinct in 1982 after its natural habitat was destroyed.
Baiji White Dolphin – These freshwater dolphins were officially declared extinct in 2006 due to hunters and fishermen’s boats crowding Yangtze River in China where they lived.
Canarian Oystercatcher – These shorebirds hailed from the Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa. They became extinct in 1994 after a shortage of shellfish, their main food source, due to commercial fishing.
With the hundreds of extinct animals, there are several hundred that are on the verge of extinction. Here are just a few of those animals that are at risk:
Polar Bears – These animals depend on sea ice to use as floating devices to catch their prey. As the ice melts, polar bears are dying of starvation. At current rates, polar bears could be extinct in less than 100 years.
Sea turtles – Sea turtles lay their eggs on Brazilian beaches that are currently exposed to rising sea levels. Also the warmer temperatures are causing more female sea turtles to be born because their nest temperature determines the sex of the animal. This is causing the number of male sea turtles to diminish.
African Elephant – These beautiful animals face numerous threats to their existence. Their living spaces are shrinking and therefore they are unable to escape the changes that come with global warming, including more frequent and longer dry periods.
Blue Whale – The largest animal on the planet weighing in at 200 tons, blue whales are at risk for ex because of habitat loss and because climate change is taking a toll on krill – their food supply.
Giant Panda – There are less than 1,600 giant pandas in the wild and only 61% are protected by China’s panda reserves. These animals are becoming extinct due to deforestation and because they have limited access to bamboo which they need to survive.
So what can we really do about endangered species? Like anything, we can all make small differences which together make a big difference. The first step is to educate yourself about what species are endangered and how climate change is playing a role in their demise. The World Wildlife Foundation is a great resource that outlines in great detail animals that are extinct and endangered and ways that you can help.