Out of all the species that have ever existed since the beginning of time, 98% of them are extinct (Facts). There are an estimated 5-10 million species that exist currently and only 1.5 million have been identified (Sherry, 2). Scientists classify species into six different groups: plants, animals, insects, algae, fungi, and microorganisms (Todays Situation).
In the tropical rainforest alone, most species are disappearing at the rate of 1% a year (Sherry, 6). If the current trend continues, at least 50% of all currently existing species will be either extinct or endangered by the year 2050 (Todays Situation). For this reason endangered species deserve more protection than the current regulations provide.
Throughout history there have been many different reasons for the extinction of species.
The earliest known reason was 64-66 million years ago when scientists believe a meteorite struck earth causing the extinction of the dinosaur and of 85% of the species existing at the time (Sherry, 2). Another major problem is the introduction of species into a new environment. Most introduced species become pests because they have no natural enemies and can easily out compete native species that have natural enemies, thus overpopulating a certain environment (Sherry, 5). The main causes of extinction are habitat destruction, commercial exploitation, damage by non-native species introduced into the environment, and pollution (Definition of endangered species).
Out of all of these, habitat destruction is the major source of extinction. It is thought that at least 4,000-6,000 species become extinct each year in the rain forest alone due to burning acreage to make room for farm fields (Todays situation). Most of the human caused extinctions occurred during the Industrial Revolution, which was 250 years ago (Sherry, 2). Another significant reason for the decline, if not extinction of species is hunting and poaching animals.
A good example of this is the near extinction of the American Bison due to over hunting. Between 1870 and 1875, 2.5 million Bison were killed annually. In 1883 the last significant herd with around 10,000 members was done away with. By 1990 there were only an estimated 500 plain Bison remaining in the United State (Direct Causes).
These are all key reasons for the extinction of species and if we can avoid them then we may prevent the future extinction of other species.
The first federal role in protecting wildlife began with the Lacey Act of 1900. It was the first attempt by any government anywhere to protect wildlife (Sherry, 9). The next major step by the government to protect and increase threatened and endangered species population was the Endangered Species Act of 1973. It stated that It is declared to be the policy of congress that all federal departments and agencies shall seek to conserve endangered species and threatened species and shall utilize their authorities in furthermore of the purpose of this act (Sherry, 9).
The quality of a species habitat is crucial because it cannot survive without it. No matter how successful breeding in captivity is, reintroducing species into the wild is useless if there is no wild to return them to (Habitat Preservation). To rehabilitate a natural environment it is a good idea to plant native vegetation and provide homes for associated animals in the environment (Habitat Preservation). Zoos are also helping to breed species in captivity with environments as close to the wild as possible. In certain circumstances these efforts are worthwhile and the plants or animals are returned to their native environments (Zoos and Reserves). These efforts have proven to preserve unique species that otherwise would have been lost forever.
With all the work that goes into helping preserve species, there are also a lot of benefits that come out of it.
The most obvious benefit of preserving species is for their uses in medical advancement. Out of all the flowering plants that exist in the world today, only 2% have been tested for new medicines or treatments (Preservation). In 1980 alone, the value of plant-derived medicines exceeded six billion.
If a portion of that figure could be made available to further research in potential drug sources, more advancement could be made and more human lives and plant species could be saved (Preservation). One of the most important plants that have been used to treat diseases is the Periwinkle Plant. Its leaves have been used to treat Hodgkins disease, Leukemia, cancer, and other cancer like diseases (Preservation). One of the most important advances in medical technology within the last five years has been the ability to clone species.
Since endangered species have been overall going down in population, it is very important to obtain the DNA tissues of plants and animals before its to late. If DNA from a specie is maintained and purified it can be preserved for hundreds to thousands of years if it is kept at constant room temperature and kept dry in a closed vial of inert gas (Poinar, 726). What scientists do to store the DNA samples are freeze it in liquid Nitrogen which will keep it preserved and protect it from extensive or irreversible damage (Poinar, 726). One of the biggest milestones in the science of cloning is Noah, the first endangered specie ever cloned. This is an astounding feat considering that Noah is an ox like creature and is being born to a dairy cow (Bergley, 56). This is the first time that a specie has been cloned using the eggs and surrogate mother of an entirely different specie (Bergley, 56).
If we preserve DNA from endangered species it creates the potential for an animal to be cloned, which could increase the genetic diversity of endangered species and prevent inbreeding (Bergley,56). If the cloning of endangered species continues it will increase the number of a certain specie and maybe one day will take them off the endangered species list.
Unless we take the precautions to protect and preserve endangered species, they will disappear forever. Without them, the earths ecosystem may very well crumble.
When we endanger wildlife, we are also endangering ourselves. We as humans must learn from our mistakes and prevent the further destruction of wildlife habitat and help to preserve endangered species and conserve their natural environments. Something that will help us remember this is that Living species today, are the end products of twenty million centuries of evolution; absolutely nothing can be done when the species has finally gone, when the last pair has died out (Quotes).