It's the natural flow of life that some species go extinct as new species emerge, with a relatively constant give and take. Unfortunately, we are now in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the history of the world, largely due to human activity.
May 20 is Endangered Species Day, meant to raise awareness of the species that could be lost forever unless we act to save them.
The plight of many animals is caused by humans through excessive habitat destruction, overhunting, climate change, and the introduction of invasive species.
In order to address the loss of wild species, the U.S. government passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973, which offers a system of protection for plants and animals with uncertain futures. Currently, there are roughly 2,245 endangered species in and around the U.S. Around the world, that number skyrockets above 16,000.
The great news is that conservation programs work. Since the ESA was written into law over 40 years ago, 99 percent of species protected have been saved from extinction. Some of the biggest success stories include grizzly bears, bald eagles, gray wolves, and California condors.
Not only are these successes good for the species themselves, but there are massive economic benefits to investing in environmental preservation. In addition to having cleaner drinking water and healthier ecosystems, eco-tourism and outdoor recreation is a $108 billion industry.
In honor of Endangered Species Day, Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop explains how the ESA works, along with how it decides to allocate resources to certain species. After all, some of the most important members of an ecosystem might not be cute and cuddly and garner a lot of support compared to some others. As she explains, however, there can be a way to save both at the same time.
Check it out here: