The global endangerment of species is one of the major concerns of the 21st Century. The problem is our continuing use of nature's resources for the benefit of the ever growing human population. Man's demand for fuel and shelter has robbed many species of their natural habitat or their home has been made untenable by the effects of pollution.
Species driven from their natural homes move to populate other areas and compete with the native species for the right to live there. They can transfer disease to which the native species have no immunity and become depleted.
By the year 2020, more than 20% of the earth's species will be under threat. To combat this large scale extinction will require political intervention, fund-raising and greater global awareness of the consequences of man's actions. It could be argued that the world's endangered species are in fact no more threatened than man himself in the face of growing population, pollution and competition for the earth's resources.
Loss of Natural Habitat
The loss of natural habitat is probably the greatest threat to the majority of species. It is predicted that all tropical rainforests will have disappeared within the next 40 years. In may cases, the de-forestation is simply due to the displacement of wildlife by the ever increasing human population. However, many Third World countries cannot be held entirely responsible. Many wealthy, Western countries having used up all of their natural resources have plundered the resources of the poorer nations. It is the industrialised countries that are now using the majority of the earth's resources.
Pollutants and pesticides used in industry and food production accumulate in our soils and enter our rivers and seas. Many as the result of direct pumping of waste into the water system, which then becomes poisonous to wildlife. Oil spillages from damaged tankers cause immeasurable damage to the world's seas and oceans and destroy wildlife and its habitat.
Possibly a greater threat to the world's wildlife is the effect of atmospheric pollution. The release of waste gases from industrial processes may cause the Sun's heat to be trapped in the atmosphere and lead to global warming.
From Stone Age man onwards, humans have led to the extinction of species due to hunting. In today's world hunting is regulated in many countries, but still illegal hunting and trading in animal skins and ivory persists.
As well as animals, plant species have also become under threat by plant hunters searching for rare orchids and cacti.
The recent Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Florida and Fauna (CITES), held in Geneva, saw a change in emphasis away from more well-known endangered species towards trying to protect commercially important species. There were proposals to protect well-know species, but there were far more on lesser-known species. Included in the latter is ramin, a major timber export from south-east Asia. The proposals are that exporters would have to issue permits guaranteeing the exported material comes from approved and sustainable sources. Some controls would be relaxed, where the danger of extinction has lessened, in the hope that profitable trade in wildlife would promote their long-term protection. Not everyone favours this policy, however.
Please see our catalogue
For related electronic resources, try visiting the websites listed under 'External Links' below.Library Catalogue
Convention on International Trade in Endangered S
People's Trust for Endangered Species
UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre
EE Link Endangered Species
Science Library - Environment
World Wildlife Fund
Especies fact sheets