A few weeks ago on an unsuspecting Thursday, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the extinction of the Javan rhinoceros of Vietnam. Then, a few short weeks later, they declared a different species of rhinoceros, the West African Black rhino extinct as well. This West African sub-species of the African rhino has actually been extinct since 2006 but the declaration was only made official earlier this fall.
I remember being very young and hearing my mom cry as a newscaster talked of the imminent extinction of the great condor. The details are fuzzy, I simply remember my mother and her reaction to the loss of the great bird. Now, 20-some years later, we know that while the condor is extinct in some parts of Northern America, these epic birds, boasting wing spans up to 3 feet, are alive in many parts of the world. They are, however, still considered endangered in as many places.
The thought of something living, an animal, a plant, a rare flower, ceasing to exist brings me more sadness then I am equipped to handle. Mostly, this depression boils down to feeling as though there is nothing I can do. These animals seem very far away and the problem to systemic and broad to affect in any real way.
In doing some research on endangered and extinct animals, I came across this web-site with a seemingly very comprehensive list.
Another article, published in May of this year (2011) by Meghan Louttit of The New York Times, details “A Directory of Rare Wonders” discussing everything from Black-Footed Ferret to the Grizzly Bear.
The threats to each animal profiled and facing potential extinction are laid out: “habitat loss and human fear” are the Grizzly’s particular nemesis. Humans seem to be the common factor posing threats to these creatures in one form or another.
I realize that this is not ground-breaking, earth-shattering news. We have all heard this story before, some times maybe even taking a break from whatever it is we are in the middle of to pay a few moments homage to the lost animal by reading the entire article, not the a tweet or a post. Unfortunately, beyond a re-tweet, this is usually where the advocacy runs dry. I have become certain that our apathy happens not because we don’t want to help, it is because we don’t know how. How do you save an at risk, giant bear from vanishing? Besides keeping a few of them safe in my closet at home, I felt like I had no idea. I felt hopeless. And in a world were I can simply close the web page, it is all to easy to ignore the issue. “In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement. “These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction,” Stuart added.
If things are to change, if we are to save even one more of the animals listed as endangered, if we are to ever stop this violent circle where our human actions so adversely affect the animal kingdom, we must start today. Really, we should start yesterday (or about 50 years ago) but as they say, there’s no time like the present. So, here are a few things we CAN do.
The websites listed below have great sections on “what you can do to help”. Their tips offer a range of involvement from simple donations to volunteering abroad. Take some time, have a look and start a conversation with someone you know. One of the best and most effective ways we can inspire change is to increase our knowledge of the problems that exist through education and conversation. You may have the desire to help, the tools do exist, so lets start today.
Read, discuss, donate, like, follow, be aware. Change, for better or for worse, can start with one step. What choice will you make today, right now?
The World Wildlife Fund : WWF’s vision is to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature.
R.O.A.R. : ReachOut. Act. Respond. “Animal Planet has partnered with leading animal organizations to inspire people like you to make the world a better place for animals. Together, we have the power to improve the lives of animals in our communities and in the wild.” There is a great tool under the “Volunteer” tab where you can type in your zip-code and find opportunities in your area to get involved. Couldn’t be more simple!
IFAW : International Fund for Animal Welfare. The “Get Involved” tab has education resources, easy donation options (even if for those on a budget) and petitions to sign right on line. Two minutes of your time could help vital and spectacular causes like freeing elephants from the threat of ivory poaching.
There are many more sites and resources out there, please comment below with your suggestions and link. Thank you for taking some time today for this! And for tomorrow…
One last thing… Here is a short video that will hopefully lift your spirits. It is footage of another sub-species of Black rhino being air lifted in a successful conservation relocation effort. Chulla Vida!