Human Behavior Impacts Animal Extinction: Here’s How You Can Help

By Caley Nell

Darjeeling Zoo red pandas set for Singallila Park re-wilding in hopes of helping restore this endangered species. Source: Red Panda Network

What is the cause of animal extinction?

It is significant to note that some extinction is natural. If animals didn’t die they would overpopulate the earth. However, extinction is happening a lot more quickly due to our carelessness (National Geographic, 2019). We need to realize the harm that humankind is creating in forms of hunting, pollution, deforestation, climate change, and more.

Everyone can do simple things to make a difference, and every little bit really does count.

Stella McCartney,  prominent vegan and animal rights activist

Many assume hunting is a predominant cause of extinction, as it may even glide into the “sports” category.  While some may have strong feelings against it, hunting can be helpful and necessary to maintain a healthy portion of the total population. A common question many hold is why hunting is only allowed in specific areas with certain animals. This is because the population of that animal is increasing rapidly within that certain area.

Just like everything, too much can be dangerous. Without limitations, as such, can cause the problem addressed; extinction. For example, there is an animal in South Africa called the Southern white rhino. This majestic beauty was being hunted, one by one, for their highly valuable horns. Unfortunately, this caused the species population to downfall and almost become extinct. Thankfully, there are rhino owners who are now taking up responsibilities to regenerate the population (Save the Rhino, 2019).   

Another primary cause of extinction is pollution. For example, sea creatures of all kinds are suffering due to plastic waste that gets picked up from landfills and thrown carelessly within the ocean. While most might not think much of throwing small pieces of waste into the sea, collectively the pollution exponentially increases to the point where even krill are becoming extinct, a vital energy source for many animals who live in the ocean (Panam Jack). 

Krill are vital to sustain sea life, and ocean pollution jeopardizes their existence. Photo credit: Copyright: © Andrea Izzotti / Thinkstock

Lastly, animal extinction is also caused by deforestation and climate change. Due to our growing population, more forests have been cut down and turned into a habitual environment for civilization, with more factories getting built and more cars driven; actions that have proven to pollute the air and directly affect the weather. An animal suffering this fate is the red panda. Red pandas are currently in danger of extinction not only because they are losing their homes in trees near the Eastern Himalayas, but also because of climate change (Red Panda Networking).

Although it may seem we don’t have any control over the weather, that is only partially true. Littering, fossil fuels (factories, gas in cars, raising and lowering the thermostat, etc.), as well as greenhouse gases, are all causes of climate change. Climate change is becoming an evolving  problem each year, showing us clear signs like warmer summers, colder winters, changes in rainfall patterns, and more destructive storms.

How does this affect the environment?

The extinction of an animal has serious effects on its environment.  For example, if a predator like a bear goes extinct, it’s prey will be less-consumed and may start over-populating. The loss of this predator would lead to drastic changes in that ecosystem and food web. If there are too many deer, for example, they can really change the ecosystem because they can destroy forests, and they can also carry disease,states Ashley Williams’ source on an article on Accuweather. This is because deer eat the bark of trees in the winter, and when trees lose their bark all around the tree, they lose their vascular system and die normally in one to three years.

Another example would be the kelp forests, which provide shelter for many species, including sea otters. According to another source in an article by Ashley Williams on Accuweather, One of the ways sea otters help to maintain those kelp forests is by preying upon other species that would slowly start to eat or consume the kelp, which, if they were left unchecked, would then rattle the entire kelp bed and turn it into a rocky or barren wasteland. 

What can we do to help?

Some simple changes you can make in your daily life are limiting the number of fossil fuels you use. Examples of this would be lowering the thermostat, driving less frequently, and even recycling can result in highly positive impacts on an animal’s life. A few other ways to help could include eating less meat and staying away from ivory (elephant tusks, rhino horns, etc.). Changes you can make at home are securing your garbage in a garbage bin so that other animals don’t eat the garbage and get sick, reducing how much water you use, and staying away from herbicides and pesticides that kill animals. You can help protect our local wildlife. You can make a difference today. 

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