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Did you know that there are over 24,000 species in the world currently endangered or threatened by human activities? Unless we do something they will disappear from the face of the earth for good.

Plants and animals depend on each other to survive. Even human beings are tied to this chain of life. Coastal estuaries, prairie grasslands, and ancient forests all have their role in keeping our ecosystem healthy. They purify the air, clean our water, and supply our food. When a species becomes endangered, it is a sign that the ecosystem is crumbling. When wildlife becomes endangered, so do we.

How do human beings endanger species? There are many different ways. We use up natural resources at a fast rate. That’s because our population is increasing at such a rate that we are constantly needing more food, more room, and more water. Farms, cities, highways, and towns are spreading across the planet and driving species out of their habitats. This makes it difficult for wildlife to find food it needs to eat, the water it needs to drink, and a place to live.

Hunting, loss of habitat, and pollution are all big factors, but the final push over the edge comes from a species ability to adapt to the loss.

When animals have their home, food, and natural defenses taken away, it becomes impossible for them to fight their way back from the edge of extinction. They need our help. Butterflies are lost by the destruction of their last remaining habitats. Eagles are electrocuted on power lines. We produce and dump toxic chemicals that poison and kill many species; we use luxury items such as furs, shells, hides, tusks and horns. These luxury items cause extinction, yet people pay a lot of money for them..

Did you know that some of the most endangered habitats are right here in the U S? A report on America’s Vanishing Habitat and Wildlife identifies ten states that have high risk ecosystems: Florida, California, Hawaii, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee.

Our planet depends greatly upon the tropical rain forests for survival. Yet these rain forests have been virtually wiped out. When the big trees in these rain forests go, a lot of species go with them.

Species that live in water become endangered and extinct when their habitat is polluted or disturbed. Current pollution problems cause acid rain that ends up in the water. Hundreds of dolphins have been found dead on the beaches, killed by their polluted habitat. And pollution off the coast of Florida is killing coral reefs along the Florida Keys. These coral reefs serve as habitat for hundreds of species of fish. The shells of sea turtles are used as wall decorations and jewelry, and they face major threats from humans. The list goes on and on.

How can we help endangered species? We can help them both at home and when shopping. Practice recycling. Buy only recycled and environmentally friendly products. Do not buy Styrofoam products or aerosol cans. Instead of paper towels, use cloth dish towels. Buy recycled paper. Use wash cloths for napkins, instead of paper ones. Disposable diapers are not biodegradable, and will remain in landfills for a very long time. Use cloth diapers. Cut up string or yarn when discarding, so animals don’t become tangled up in them. And do not use poisons for pests! More reserves need to be set aside, so animals can exist.

We can reverse the devastation by doing our part. And if we do it, our world will be a brighter and place for all its inhabitants, and future generations can enjoy them as well.