Our planet is a constantly changing place, and the people and creatures living on it are constantly changing too! When the living conditions on Earth change, the affected species must change with them. Those that cannot adapt will naturally become fewer and fewer in number over time, ultimately becoming extinct if they are unable to survive. A species that is extinct no longer exists at all and will never be able to come back.
When a certain species of an animal (or plant!) is on its way to extinction and has become very small in number, scientists will start to refer to it as endangered. (You might think of it sort of like “in danger”!) Similarly, an animal that is on its way to endangerment is referred to as threatened.
While extinction and changes in species’ populations are normal parts of how the world works, they can also be problems — particularly if the conditions leading to the extinction were man-made and not natural, like animal habitats like rainforests being torn down or pollution and litter making creatures ill. Hunting and disease which can occur when humans introduce new species into a previously stable ecosystem are other reasons animals get endangered because of humans.
The biggest threat, however, is climate change — bringing destruction like melting ice in the Arctic, warmer oceans, and droughts in grasslands.
Luckily, there are things we can do to prevent animals from becoming extinct; most importantly we can prevent conditions that ruin their homes, food supply, or well-being! Governments, conservation groups, and scientists will often make special efforts as well, such as passing laws to protect a certain species from hunters or breeding the endangered animals in captivity (like zoos) where they can be fed and cared for until they have offspring!
What you can do as a family:
- Volunteer with a conservation organization in your area to restore natural ecosystems
- Don't spray pestizides and fertilizers in your yard
- Protect the rainforest by being conscious of what you consume. E.g. buy local, reduce the use of products that contain palm oil, be vary of fast fashion, eat less meat, don't waste paper.
- Support organizations like WWF, NRDC, Endangered.