Plants and animals maintain the health of an ecosystem. And, when species become endangered, it’s a sign that an ecosystem is out of balance. But why does this matter?
Well, ecosystems are groups of plants and animals that are found in the same area and interact with each other. These interactions make up and maintain the environments we know today – like rainforests, mountains and savannahs.
But the balance within an ecosystem isn’t always easy to maintain: the loss of one species often triggers the loss of others.
For example, when grey wolves were hunted to near-extinction in the United States’ Yellowstone National Park, beaver populations also decreased significantly.
This happened because elk populations that were usually hunted by wolves, were able to graze freely and more heavily on the plants that were also needed by beavers to survive during winter.
But did you know that the conservation of endangered species helps to restore the balance in ecosystems and is important for humans too? Let’s find out how.
The benefits of conserving endangered species
A well-balanced ecosystem maintains the health of the environment. This ensures that human beings have access to clean air and water, and fertile land for agriculture.
Clean air and water improves our quality of life, and fertile land for agriculture ensures that we can produce enough food for consumption. A balanced ecosystem also provides us with plants that have medicinal properties.
So, when ecosystems aren’t maintained, our health can be affected too. That’s why when you add to the conservation of endangered species, you’re also contributing towards the well-being of all people.
Do you want to know how?
How to contribute towards the conservation of endangered species
Although there are many endangered species across the globe, there are also lots of efforts underway to conserve them.
Governments, non-profit organisations, international organisations, local communities, and individuals are working together to contribute towards growing the populations of endangered species.
They’re also building on awareness campaigns that are aimed at getting even more people involved in vital conservation work.
As an individual, you can make an impact by learning about, and raising awareness of, endangered species in your area and across the world.
A sustainable way to do this is to get involved as a volunteer and partner with governments and organisations on existing conservation projects.
This is a great way to learn about wildlife conservation, and gain hands-on, professional field experience. These practical skills will boost your resume for a career in sustainable development. And if you have a different career in mind, you’ll still pick up other valuable skills like teamwork and leadership.
Volunteering is also a valuable opportunity to get involved in scientific research aimed at wildlife conservation. Part of your duties on a wildlife conservation program might include data collection, which provides valuable information that can be used by scientists.
GVI works on protecting endangered species by partnering with local governments, communities, and non-profit organisations.
So, joining one of our projects as a volunteer or intern will give you the chance to help maintain well-balanced ecosystems and conserve the animals that depend on them. You’ll learn more about conservation in a real-life context, and experience the challenges involved in conservation up close.
Here are some of the projects that you could get involved in to add to the conservation of endangered species with GVI.
Six of the seven species of sea turtles are listed as endangered, or critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red List.
Why is this?
Well, sea turtles face many challenges to their survival like ocean pollution. With so much waste polluting the ocean, turtles are at risk of eating, or becoming tangled in litter like plastic bags.
Uncontrolled coastal development also has a negative impact on turtles because it limits their nesting grounds.
And, poaching activities – that target turtle eggs, skins, shells and meat – also affects the number of sea turtles in the ocean. These are just a few of the common obstacles sea turtles face.
So why protect sea turtles? Sea turtles play a fundamental role in marine ecosystems.
For example, by grazing on seagrass, turtles help keep it short, encouraging it to grow horizontally across the sea floor.
In this way, the seagrass can continue to provide support and protection for other marine life. It can also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more efficiently, which is vital for regulating the earth’s atmosphere.
The Mediterranean Sea hosts thousands of loggerhead turtles during their nesting season. And the Greek shoreline serves as one of the largest loggerhead breeding grounds in the world.
No wonder turtle conservation is a hot topic in Greece.
In fact, in the 1980s a society named ARCHELON was established by a group of concerned citizens and scientists.
They were determined to protect the loggerhead turtle, and focused on the development of the shoreline, which had a negative impact on sea turtle habitats.
This organisation worked alongside the government to establish protective regulations that are still in place today.
GVI partners with ARCHELON in Greece to patrol the beach, locate new tracks and nests, measure the size of sea turtles, record data, install protective night grids, and conduct public awareness activities in Greek communities.
The data collected is used to develop local coastal-management plans and international conservation strategies.
And, by assisting in protecting nests against predation and flooding, GVI volunteers can contribute towards the survival of as many hatchlings as possible.
Black rhinos in South Africa are listed as critically endangered according to the IUCN. The black rhino population has experienced a more than 90% decline in their numbers since 1970.
Today, few rhinos survive outside of national parks, due to poaching and the destruction of their natural habitat.
In 2017, 1,028 rhinos were poached. This was a slightly lower figure than in 2016, but a significant increase when compared to 2007 – when just 13 rhinos were poached.
Black rhinos are poached primarily for their horns. These horns are used in some traditional medicines or are sold in illegal trade.
Rhinos are known as megaherbivores – very large animals that only eat plants, and are considered a keystone species – a species that is important in maintaining the habitat they live in.
Grazers, like rhinos, play a critical role in keeping the ecosystem balanced. Their grazing keeps grass short, and because they prefer to eat certain plants over others, they influence the types of plants that grow in an area, and how fast they grow.
As a volunteer on GVI’s anti-poaching project, you’ll learn about the conservation concerns in South Africa.
You’ll also get involved in activities that build on public awareness of these issues, and work alongside local partners to collect data on rhinos, and other wildlife species.
Your work will include tracking wildlife, setting up camera traps, and using radio telemetry equipment on research game drives.
Asian elephants are considered endangered by the IUCN. The decrease in their population size is largely due to elephant labour in the tourism industry, as well deforestation of their habitats.
There are only 40,000–50,000 Asian elephants left in the wild. And, of the 3,000 Asian elephants found in Thailand, almost half of them are kept in captivity.
This is because, in Thailand, Asian elephants were historically used as part of the workforce – in the logging industry and the military, as well as for cultural celebrations.
And, even after they were no longer used in industry, Asian elephants were still seen as tourist attractions.
This meant that the elephants took part in activities – like providing rides for tourists, or performing in circuses – that had a negative impact on their well-being.
Like rhinos, elephants are also a keystone species. When they graze in the forest, they cover great stretches of ground and control the growth of vegetation. Elephants also spread the seeds of the plants they eat, which promotes plant growth, and plant biodiversity.
As a volunteer on GVI’s Thailand elephant reintegration project in Chiang Mai, you’ll collect data on the behaviour and feeding patterns of elephants.
You will work alongside traditional elephant keepers, who have generations of knowledge on elephant behaviour and care.
During your time in Thailand you’ll live with a local family, helping you to better understand how this community relies on these endangered animals.
Make a positive impact in wildlife conservation
This is because all animals are affected by global warming and environmental challenges. So we’re keeping an eye on as many animal species as possible, and getting involved in their conservation as soon as we can.
Want to be at the forefront of conservation work across the world?