Some animals and plants in our world are very common, like houseflies, cats or daisies. They are not in danger of dying out. Other species are very rare. Sometimes only a few of them are left. Such species may disappear forever.
Ever since life on earth began, animals and plants have died out and new ones have appeared. Dinosaurs, for example, roamed the planet during the earth’s middle ages. 65 million years ago they disappeared forever.
Animals and plants need each other to survive. They keep the world of nature in balance. If a certain plant dies out some animals may become extinct too, because they depend on the plant for food.
Why species become extinct
Long ago, most animals and plants became extinct because of natural events, like earthquakes or volcano eruptions. Climatic changes, like the beginning of the Ice Age, also led to the disappearance of certain species. Today, plants and animals are in danger mostly because of human beings.
Some plants and animals can survive in many areas. When they move to other places they adapt to their new environment very quickly. Others can only live in certain areas. We call such a living place a habitat. If a habitat is destroyed the species cannot find any more food or a place to live, sleep or have babies. So it dies out.
Habitats can be destroyed in many ways. More and more people live in our world. They need more space to live in. Rainforests, grasslands and other parts of nature are cleared and people start to settle there. They take away the natural home of plants and animals.
Pollution can also kill off certain species. Acid rain from factories goes down in rivers and lakes and can poison fish there.
The most endangered areas are the tropical rainforests. More than 50 % of all animals and plants live there. Every day, thousands of acres of rainforest are destroyed and many species become extinct every day.
Ever since man appeared on earth he has killed animals and gathered plants. They have been used for food, medicine, clothes and to make homes. Cheetahs, tigers and other wild cats have been killed for their skins. Whales have been hunted for centuries because of their oil and blubber.
Most animals today are protected by international law, but many, like the black rhinoceros and the African elephant are hunted illegally. Some species, like wolves, have been killed by humans because they were seen as a danger to farm animals.
Sometimes native animals become endangered when a new species comes to live in a place. Foxes were brought to Australia to kill off rabbits, which were seen as a pest. But instead of killing rabbits, the foxes killed kangaroos and other marsupials of Australia.
People have hurt plants and animals but they are also willing to help them survive. All over the world organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, the Rainforest Action Network or Friends of the Earth are helping to protect habitats. They raise money for their projects and make governments and the public listen to them. New laws have also been made to protect endangered plants and animals all over the world.
- African and Indian elephants are killed for their tusks which are used for ivory earrings and other a art objects
- The giant panda lives in zoos and in some parts of China. There are only about 1,500 left in the world today.
- Reptiles (lizards, crocodiles and alligators) are killed for their skins. People make leather handbags and shoes.
- Sea turtles are in danger because people often collect their eggs. They often die in the sea because of water pollution.
- There are only about five thousand tigers left in the world today. They live in southern Asia, mostly in national reserves.
- The bald eagle is the national symbol of the USA. The bird almost died out at the beginning of the century, but today the population is stable.
- For centuries the Bermuda cedar was cut down because people needed material for houses and furniture. Conservationists have helped protect the trees that are left
- Some cactus types are in danger of becoming extinct because they grow slowly and are hurt by animals.
In 1960, biologist Sir Julian Huxley returned from a research trip to Africa. He was very much shocked by what he had seen there: the hunting of rare animals and the destruction of their habitat. Other scientists shared his opinion that something had to be done about this. The following year Huxley, some fellow scientists and a few politicians founded the World Wildlife Fund. It became the largest conservation group in the world.
Today the WWF has 5 million supporters around the world. It has national organisations in more than 50 countries and raises more than 100 million dollars a year.
The most important task of the WWF is to protect endangered species around the world. Among them are the tiger, whale, elephant and many others. The giant panda, one of the most endangered animals, has become the WWF logo.
The WWF also tries to protect habitats like the tropical rainforest. In the past decade alone, it has been able to conserve over 1 billion acres of forest in Asia, South America and Africa.
The organisation fights against the pollution of natural resources and it is worried about the destruction of fish in the world’s oceans.
Over the past years the WWF has been working on projects in over one hundred countries. It also gives money to research work and spends a lot to teach children and parents about our world in danger.
Downloadable PDF Text- and Worksheets
- African Elephants in Danger of Becoming Extinct
- Endangered Tigers
- The Giant Panda
- China Announces Ban on Ivory Trade
- Protecting the Snow Leopard of Central and Southern Asia
- Mountain Gorillas - Endangered Primates in Eastern Africa
- Elephant Smuggling in India
- Battle against deforestation in Indonesia
- Japan Continues Whaling in the Antarctic
- Are Bananas Becoming Extinct ?
- Ascension Island To Become New Marine Reserve
- Congo Conflict Endangers Gorilla Population
- acid rain = the rain that has dangerous chemicals, which come from factory smoke or cars, in it
- acre = an area of about 4,000 square metres
- adapt = to get used to
- appear = come up
- blubber = the fat of a whale
- cedar = a large evergreen tree with leaves that look like needles
- century = a hundred years
- certain =special
- clear = to cut down and remove
- common = something that happens often
- conservationist = someone who works to protect plants and animals
- conserve = to protect something and keep it safe
- daisy = a white flower with a yellow centre
- decade = ten years
- depend on =need
- destroy = damage something so you cannot use it any more
- destruction =if something is completely destroyed
- disappear = they are gone
- endangered = in danger
- environment = the world around us
- eruption = if something breaks out
- extinct = die out , something that no longer exists
- fellow = a person that you work with
- found = to start something new
- fungi = a simple type of plant that has no leaves; it grows on the ground or on other plants
- furniture = tables and chairs made of wood
- gather = collect
- government =the people who rule a country
- habitat = the natural home of an animal or plant
- ice age = a time, thousands of years ago when ice covered much of our earth
- illegally = against the law
- in balance =equal, steady
- ivory = the yellowish-white material that tusks are made of
- law =the rules that a country has
- marsupial = an animal like a kangaroo that caries its babies in a pocket
- native = animals that grow and live in a certain place
- organism = a living thing
- parasite = a plant or animal that lives in another plant or animal and gets food from it
- pest = a small animal or insect that destroys farm plants
- poison = to make sick or kill
- politician =someone who works in politics
- pollution =when air, water or the ground gets dangerously dirty
- protect =guard, defend, to keep safe
- public =ordinary, normal people who do not work for the government
- raise = collect
- rare = not very often
- research = to study something and find out new things about it
- reserve = an area in which plants or animals are protected
- resource = things that exist in nature and that are used by people
- roam = wander around
- scientist =a person who works in science
- settle = to start living in a place
- species = a group of animals or plants that are alike
- stable = it does not change
- supporter = helper
- survive =to live on after a dangerous situation
- task = work that must be done
- threat = danger
- tiny = very small
- tusk = long pointed and curved teeth of an elephant
- water pollution = dirty water
- willing = want to