There used to be a time in the United States when passenger pigeons flew in such huge flocks they would fill the sky. But at the turn of the 20th century they disappeared from the wild due to hunting, and eventually, the last pigeon living in a zoo died. When a life form can no longer pass down its own species, that species is said to be extinct.
In the 18th century, the population of passenger pigeons was greater than the Earth's human population.
An endangered species is an animal that is in danger of becoming extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) reports that out of 76,000 species of animals and plants surveyed, more than 22,000 could become extinct!
That's means one out of five mammals and one out of three amphibians are on the brink of extinction.*
*All figures sourced from the 2015 edition of the IUCN Red List.
The IUCN is an international organization dedicated to natural resource conservation. The group publishes the "Red List", a list of endangered species. This "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Endangered Animals-Let's protect our companions" contains information about endangered species organized by IUCN categories.
Why should we protect animals that are on the brink of extinction? Because we feel sorry for them? Of course it's important to respect the life of an animal. But there are other reasons for conservation, too.
For instance, plants produce the oxygen that we need to breathe. The life of a plant relies on pollen carried by insects and minerals found in animal carcasses. In other words, the earth has many life forms whose lives depend on one another. This is called biodiversity. When an animal or other life form becomes extinct, it breaks its link with other life forms, and threatens our lives as well.
Life on earth is a miracle made possible through various interrelated life forms.
Extinction is a natural progression of events for all life forms, just as it was for dinosaurs. But when the rate of extinction reaches 40,000 species a year, nothing in history compares. What's more, most of this is caused by the work of humans.
Most cases of extinction are a result of the work of humans. Put that way, it may seem we should stop all activity that harms animals. But in reality, we can't go back to the Stone Age, so some agricultural and industrial activity is necessary if we are to sustain our lifestyles. What we should do is aim for a new era where people and animals can coexist, an era unlike the Stone Age or even the 20th century.
What can we do now so that people and animals can coexist? The first thing we can do is think and learn about endangered animals. We can then use that knowledge to take actions that contribute to their conservation. For instance, stopping wasteful use of paper can go a long way in protecting forests. Something you can start today is to choose environmentally-friendly products when you buy household goods and foods.
The entire Konica Minolta group participates in various environmental efforts.