Endangered Species Day is May 20, 2016. Learn more about how to get involved here.
You might think you need to trek to the wilds of Africa or travel to the South American rain forests to make a difference in preserving endangered species.
Around the world, habitats are being destroyed at an alarming rate, putting many wildlife species in danger of extinction. Threatened and endangered wildlife live throughout the globe and you're likely to find some in your own backyard. To protect endangered animals, think both globally and locally.
"The Southeast, West Coast, Hawaii and Southwest are America's extinction hot spots," says Kieran Suckling, executive director of CBD Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a leading advocacy group devoted to animal and plant conservation. "Most of the species lost in the past century lived there, and most of those threatened with extinction in the next decade live there as well."
So, what can you do in your own corner of the world to help endangered species?
1. Find out what animals living near you are listed on the endangered species list.
Spend some time learning about the animals and what their preferred habitat is. Teach your friends and family about the wonderful wildlife, birds, fish and plants that live near you.
2. Visit a national wildlife refuge, park or other open space.
These protected lands provide habitat to many native wildlife, birds, fish and plants. Scientists tell us the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the places where they live.
Contribute to nature reserves and other wilderness areas. Habitat preservation is one of the best ways to help protect endangered animals. You can donate money or volunteer your time helping the nature reserve preserve habitat.
Go wildlife or bird watching in nearby parks. Wildlife related recreation creates millions of jobs and supports local businesses.
To find a wildlife refuge near you, visit www.fws.gov/refuges/.
To find a park near you, visit http://www.nps.gov/.
To find a zoo near you, visit AZA.
3. Buy environmentally-friendly goods and reduce or stop use of products that endanger the environment and threatened species.
Choose non-toxic cleaners and lawn care items that won't pollute streams, rivers or oceans. Avoid any products that have been made from threatened or endangered animals. Buy foods and goods that are made from materials that do not harm endangered animals or their habitat. For example, look for organic chocolate, coffee or cotton clothing that is grown without cutting down rainforests or destroying habitat.
Buy recycled paper, sustainable products like bamboo and Forest Stewardship Council wood products to protect forest species. Never buy furniture made from wood from rainforests.
Recycle your cell phones, because a mineral used in cell phones and other electronics is mined in gorilla habitat.
Minimize your use of palm oil because forests where tigers live are being cut down to plant palm plantations.
Secure garbage in shelters or cans with locking lids, feed pets indoors and lock pet doors at night to avoid attracting wild animals into your home.
Reduce your use of water in your home and garden so that animals that live in or near water can have a better chance of survival.
Disinfect bird baths often to avoid disease transmission.
Place decals on windows to deter bird collisions. Millions of birds die every year because of collisions with windows. You can help reduce the number of collisions simply by placing decals on the windows in your home and office.
For more information on what you can do, check out these tips from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
4. Never purchase products made from threatened or endangered species.
Overseas trips can be exciting and fun, and everyone wants a souvenir. But sometimes the souvenirs are made from species nearing extinction. Avoid supporting the market in illegal wildlife including: tortoise-shell, ivory, coral. Also, be careful of products including fur from tigers, polar bears, sea otters and other endangered wildlife, crocodile skin, live monkeys or apes, most live birds including parrots, macaws, cockatoos and finches, some live snakes, turtles and lizards, some orchids, cacti and cycads, medicinal products made from rhinos, tiger or Asiatic black bear.
5. Create or restore habitat for endangered animals.
You can volunteer to help with projects worldwide designed to reestablish habitat. In your own backyard, plant a butterfly garden, use native plants and trees and let "wild" areas grow to provide habitat and food.
Native plants provide food and shelter for native wildlife. Attracting native insects like bees and butterflies can help pollinate your plants. The spread of non-native species has greatly impacted native populations around the world. Invasive species compete with native species for resources and habitat. They can even prey on native species directly, forcing native species towards extinction.
For more information about native plants, visit http://www.plantsocieties.org/
6. Minimize use of herbicides and pesticides.
Herbicides and pesticides may keep yards looking nice but they are in fact hazardous pollutants that affect wildlife at many levels. Many herbicides and pesticides take a long time to degrade and build up in the soils or throughout the food chain. Predators such as hawks, owls and coyotes can be harmed if they eat poisoned animals. Some groups of animals such as amphibians are particularly vulnerable to these chemical pollutants and suffer greatly as a result of the high levels of herbicides and pesticides in their habitat.
For alternatives to pesticides, visit http://www.beyondpesticides.org/
7. Join a local, national or global conservation organization.
Some organizations focus on one particular endangered animal while others focus on broad efforts for all endangered species. You can "adopt" an animal through these organizations, which makes a great gift idea as well.
For more information about endangered species, visit endangered.fws.gov
8. Slow down when driving.
Many animals live in developed areas and this means they must navigate a landscape full of human hazards. One of the biggest obstacles to wildlife living in developed areas is roads. Roads divide habitat and present a constant hazard to any animal attempting to cross from one side to the other. So when you're out and about, slow down and keep an eye out for wildlife.
9. Report any harassment or shooting of threatened and endangered species.
Harassing wildlife is cruel and illegal. Shooting, trapping, or forcing a threatened or endangered animal into captivity is also illegal and can lead to their extinction. Don't participate in this activity, and report it as soon as you see it to your local state or federal wildlife enforcement office.
You can find a list of state wildlife departments at http://www.fws.gov/offices/statelinks.html.
10. Protect wildlife habitat
Perhaps the greatest threat that faces many species is the widespread destruction of habitat. Scientists tell us the best way to protect endangered species is to protect the special places where they live. Wildlife must have places to find food, shelter and raise their young. Logging, oil and gas drilling, over-grazing and development all result habitat destruction. Endangered species habitat should be protected and these impacts minimized.
When you are buying a house, consider your impact on wildlife habitat.
To get involved, contact the Endangered Species Coalition Staff or find a group near you on the ESC member organization list.
Also read: Sniffer Dogs Join Fight Against Wildlife Crime .
Elephants are Basically Dinosaurs
Here’s how to start breaking down the illegal wildlife trade
10 of the Most Endangered Species on Earth