Earth Day Ruminations

Shocking Statistics

It is estimated over 15,000 species (plant and animal) are currently threatened with extinction. Of these, one of every four mammals, and one of every eight birds, are facing a high risk of extinction in the near future.

In the last 500 years, human activity has forced over 800 species into extinction. In the last 10 years, the number of threatened animal species has increased from 5,205 to 7,266.

It’s important to remember, and remind ourselves, when these animals vanish from Earth, it means they will never be seen, or heard from, again. Source:

Habitat Loss

The primary cause of animal extinction/endangerment is loss of natural habitat. Tropical forests are being plundered for their lumber and thousands of square miles of desert have been bulldozed into subdivisions for human habitation. The animals whose territories were destroyed have no choice but to compress themselves into crowded and more competitive space.

Satellite images show illegal loggers have clear-cut large swathes of trees in the heart of a monarch butterfly reserve in Mexico, threatening the entire population with extinction, according to a leading researcher. The image on the right was taken in 2008 and shows severe deforestation (brown area).

Deforestation of Monarch Butterfly refuge

The images show illegal loggers felled 1,100 acres of trees since 2004 in the core of a wooded park in Michoacan state where clouds of orange- and black-winged butterflies nest each winter, said Lincoln Brower, a professor emeritus of biology at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, who has studied the monarchs for 52 years.

“The butterfly area can’t survive if this kind of logging continues,” said Brower, who also directs the preservation group that paid for the commercial satellite images, which were published by NASA online. He noted that the delicate creatures need leafy foliage to protect them from rain and cold. Source: MSNBC


We’ve all heard the stories about how the buffalo (North American Bison) was hunted to near extinction by thrill-seekers who were only in it for the kill, leaving the carcasses where they fell. The buffalo have made a remarkable comeback from the brink, but exploitation for human profit has not gone away and other species are not so lucky.

Sharks are being caught and mutilated for their fins, which are a delicacy in Asia. “Shark fins bring us fast money, it’s good business, my brother,” fisherman Nii Attoh, of Accra, Ghana, explained.

Poachers are responsible for depleting populations of gorillas in Africa and tigers in China, where, as of 2006, it was estimated only 10-30 remained in the wild. It is unfathonable that such beautiful and diverse animals are killed for the sole purpose of providing aphrodisiacs!

Some Interesting Facts

According to scientists, more than one and one-half million species exist on the earth today. However, recent estimates state that at least 20 times that many species inhabit the planet.

In the United States, 735 species of plants and 496 species of animals are listed as threatened or endangered.

266 of these listed species have recovery plans currently under development.

There are more than 1,000 animal species endangered worldwide.

There are more than 3,500 protected areas in existence worldwide. These areas include parks, wildlife refuges and other reserves. They cover a total of nearly 2 million square miles (5 million square km), or 3% of our total land area.

Aquatic species, which are often overlooked, are facing serious trouble. One third of the United States’ fish species, two-thirds of its crayfish species, and almost three-quarters of its mussel species are in trouble. Source: