Endangered Species Affect Our Ecosystems

February 17, 2011

Species on the brink of extinction affect us all more than we may realize. Sure, the pandas are cute, and the rhinos are fun to look at, but is there any more to it than that? Absolutely.

All animal and plant life is part of a complex ecosystem that also includes our lands and our waters. Remove one or more of those parts and you damage the ecosystems, sometimes beyond restoration. These ecosystems provide clean water, breathable air, fertile soils, climate control, food, medicine, energy, building materials, transportation, as well as recreational and spiritual uses. Many groups are working to protect endangered species and their habitats; they are mentioned throughout this post and at the end.

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service:

415 species are endangered in the US

164 species are threatened in the US

541 species are endangered in other countries

50 species are threatened in other countries

In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Why should we save endangered species? The introduction recognizes that endangered and threatened wildlife and plants “are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people.” The purpose of the ESA is to “protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.” It is administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Commerce Department’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) , “destructive human activities” have increased the rate of species extinction from 100 to 1000 times the natural rate. WWF lists the following 8 animals as flagship endangered species. Flagship species are used as icons to denote the broader problem. (All info on the 8 taken from wwf.org.)

Tigers

Tigers are one of the most threatened species in the world, with only about 3200 Tigers left in the wild. The biggest threats to these animals are growing human populations, habitat loss, illegal hunting, trade of tiger parts used in medicines.

Adopt a Tiger here. *

Pandas
Although pandas are one of the most popular and famous animals on earth, there are only about 2500 pandas left in the wild. The biggest threats they face are habitat fragmentation and unsustainable development.

Adopt a Panda here. *

Sumatran Rhinoceroses
This smallest of the living rhinoceroses is critically endangered, with only 300 alive in the wilds. The biggest threats to these animals are habitat loss and poaching. The forests in which they live need to be saved.

Adopt a Rhino here. *

Polar Bears
Not endangered as yet, polar bears number between 20,000 to 25,000, perhaps due to the 1973 International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears and their Habitat. However, culture change and warming trends pose a very real threat to polar bears over the next century.

Adopt a Polar Bear here. *

Whales
Seven of thirteen whale species are endangered or vulnerable. The greatest threats include oil and gas development in feeding grounds, collisions with ships, entanglement in fishing lines, commercial killing, toxic contamination, climate change and habitat vulnerability.

Pygmy Elephants
Smaller than other Asian elephants, pygmy elephants number only about 1600 in the wild. Biggest threats to these elephants are habitat loss and human conflict.

Adopt an Elephant here. *

Marine Turtles
Many marine turtles are endangered and critically close to extinction.
“Having traveled the seas for over 100 million years, sea turtles have outlived almost all of the prehistoric animals with which they once shared the planet. Having survived the extinction of the dinosaurs, marine turtles still inhabit the oceans’ open waters and coastal habitats, feeding on jellyfish and other aquatic plants and animals.”**
Marine turtles can reproduce abundantly, but even under “natural” conditions, few young turtles survive, and it can take decades for turtles to reach maturity. Biggest threats include habitat destruction, egg collection, hunting, entanglement in fishing lines, and climate change.

Adopt a Sea Turtle here. *

Great Apes
This group includes gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees, and are all endangered, some critically so. They are also our closest wild relatives. Serious threats to the great apes include disease, hunting, trade, habitat loss and climate change.

Adopt a Gorilla here. *

 

What You Can Do


Humane Society Campaigns

National Wildlife Refuge System You Can Help

Endangered Species Program How You Can Help

Humane Society International

Humane Society of the US

World Wildlife Fund Act Now

 

*I am a big fan of the World Wildlife Fund, so I’ve included links to their “adopt an endangered species” program, simply because I think it’s a cool and fun idea.

** From wwf.org.

Note:  Pictures do not accurately represent species listed. They’re just cute pictures. And, yes, I went a little nuts with the bears. (www.classroomclipart.com)

 

 


Issues that Matter: Human Trafficking

November 29, 2010

Human trafficking has always bothered me, but until I started researching it, I had no idea how prevalent it is, even in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 600,000 to 800,000 individuals are brought across international borders for human trafficking purposes annually. Sewa-aifw.org puts that estimate at 900,000 people, many of them children. That’s almost one million people a year. The regions of the world with the most severe trafficking are Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and Africa.

Countries like the U.S. are often “destination countries”, the places to where the victims are brought. According to Sewa-aifw, up to 20,000 victims are brought to the United States annually, many of them young children. The women are usually forced to work in the sex trade or as unpaid, abused domestics. The men are most often forced into migrant farming or factory work, although they occasionally work in the sex trade. The children are used for any or all of those purposes.

Victims are either taken, sold by their families or lured away with false promises of a good job, a better life, a way to provide for their families back home, or a good marriage.

Once the victims are taken, the traffickers use force, threaten to kill the person or the person’s family if the victim doesn’t comply with their orders, or they falsely tell the victim they only have to pay off a certain amount of debt and then will be free. The victims are watched constantly and often kept under lock and key. Their documents are confiscated and they are kept isolated.

Victims are often brought to countries where they don’t speak the language. This encourages isolation and abuse. If they can’t communicate with those around them, how will they get help? Or better yet, how will they know where to go get help?

Sadly, many victims do not realize that they are victims. They may come from a country with a mistrust of government. Or, since they’re being fed and sheltered, they don’t perceive themselves as victims. They may be afraid of the authorities if the traffickers have convinced them they are in debt or otherwise in trouble.

We have our own problems with trafficking, not just as a destination country. Just a week ago, arrests were made in Florida for sex trafficking. In April, nine people in LA were convicted of sex trafficking, after bringing young women in from Guatamala to work as prostitutes. In February, a man in Alaska was arrested for forcing young women to work as prostitutes.

In fiscal year 2009, the FBI launched 167 human trafficking investigations and made 202 arrests. Human trafficking is second only to drug dealing and arms dealing (which are tied for first) as a criminal activity. And the problem is growing.

“It’s sad but true: here in this country, people are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves.” FBI website

The sewa-aifw web site has great information on how to identify victims of human trafficking, how to communicate with potential victims, and victims’ needs and rights.

It tells you how to potentially identify a victim of trafficking. Signs include living with employer, signs of abuse, submissiveness, inability to speak alone, fearfulness, being kept under surveillance.

HHS runs The Campaign to Rescue and Restore Victims of Human Trafficking.  Their web site has loads of information on the issue and how they are working to combat it. It also tells you how you can become involved where you live.

If you come across someone you believe to be a victim of this, call 911.

Resources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) National Human Trafficking Resource Center 1-888-3737-888  Operates 24 hours.

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Trafficking in Persons and Worker Exploitation Task Force Line 1-888-428-7581  Only operates on weekdays, 9am-5pm EST. Call to report a potential case of human trafficking. This is a direct call to Federal law enforcement.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 Operates 24 hours. Can make local referrals.


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