In 2006, the United States Congress named the third Friday of May as Endangered Species Day. The special day offers the opportunity to learn more about the importance of protecting endangered species and the things we can do on a daily basis to protect animals. During the month of May, zoos, aquariums, parks, botanic gardens, wildlife refuges, museums, schools, community centers, conservation groups, and other organizations all of over the country hold tours, presentations, exhibits, activities, and many other opportunities for people to appreciate and learn about endangered animals.
There are currently 79,800 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, and 23,000 of them are endangered and threatened with extinction. It’s estimated that in the last 500 years, human activity has forced more than 800 species into extinction. While studies are able to produce a generalized number of extinct species, they’re unable to get a precise number because some of the endangered species have never been identified by scientists.
The Endangered Species Coalition is a well-known organization that has a mission to “stop the human-caused extinction of our nation’s at-risk species, to protect and restore their habitats, and to guide these fragile populations along the road to recovery.” The coalition relies on grassroots mobilization, education, and targeted campaigns that bring Americans together to raise awareness.
Zoo Atlanta in Georgia houses many of the world’s most exotic animals. More than 60 of their resident species are classified as threatened, endangered or critically endangered. The zoo takes part in conservation projects all around the globe. The zoo will host crafts and educational activities for the kids, opportunities to learn more about Zoo Atlanta’s own conservation efforts that are local and global, meet and greets with costume characters, and a performance of “Jambo’s Journey” by Jenni Kopelman.
Rachel Davis, director of communications, says that the biggest misconception most people have about endangered species is centered on the sad ending of extinction. “Yes, extinction is a potential outcome for many of these species without targeted conservation efforts, but we still have the opportunity to affect change for wildlife and wild places. These can and should be stories of hope, not futility,” says Davis.
Davis adds that people can do a lot to support and represent endangered species if they recognized the power of the average person. When people have ongoing active conversations about a topic, the world tends to react and become active for the cause. It’s important to remember the many ways all animals contribute to our health and the element of nutrition – algae-based Omega 3 is a sustainable alternative to fish oil.
Another element that many people forget, when it comes to endangered species, is the notion of problems relevant to specific places across the world. “Deforestation; habitat loss and habitat fragmentation; unsustainable production of commonplace products like palm oil; unsustainable fishing; pollution; over harvesting or illegal hunting of wildlife—these aren’t just the challenges of any one part of the world. They’re challenges globally and, as individuals and as consumers, we all have the ability to make choices that can help to turn the tables on these challenges. We all have the ability to be stewards of our natural world,” says Davis.
Zoos and other organizations shed light on Endangered Species Day with child-friendly activities and other engaging functions that provide more information on what we can do as individuals to protect the animals. If everyone bands together with the same strong message, then the outcome will bring forth a brighter future.