This year, the theme and focus for Earth Day is “to protect and save every category of animal.” Earth Day is given a theme each year that focuses on one issue affecting our planet. While there are some creatures that make it difficult to understand their purpose, such as fire ants, every creature is a part of the food chain and makes a contribution to Earth’s ecosystem.
Some species are lost because of natural causes, but others are lost because of man-made actions, such as using synthetic fertilizers, elimination of forests or other natural habitats, and hunting.
A few of the many animals already extinct
• Passenger pigeons – In 1808, John James Audubon wrote of a migrating flock which passed over his head blocking the sun for three straight days. He estimated the flock at over two billion birds!
• The Dodo – This bird, located in Mauritius, attained notoriety with its mention in Alice in Wonderland. Sailors first saw them in 1598 and the last sighting was in 1662.
• Western black rhinoceros – Poachers led to the demise of this animal. In 1980 there were hundreds in sub-Saharan Africa, but only ten by 2000. By 2011, they were declared extinct along with two other black rhino subspecies.
• Tasmanian tiger – The last of these died in 1936 in a zoo, but what an interesting creature it was! The website of the American Museum of Natural History says it was “shaped like a dog, striped like a tiger or zebra, pouched like an opossum, and behaved like a wolf. Its limited territory could not sustain this animal as dogs, hunting, disease, and human population growth all led to its extinction.
Other animals that may soon be extinct
These are just a few of the many animals no longer on this planet, but others are headed to the same fate. Among those may be some of your favorite animals – lions, tigers, elephants, whales, jaguars, and sharks.
Since their natural habitats are often places of danger for them, zoos have stepped up to try to save many of these species with habitats mimicking their natural territories and creating breeding programs and animal exchanges with other zoos to keep the lines clear of inbreeding. Here is an opportunity to test your knowledge identifying a few of the endangered animals.
How can you protect and save every category of animal?
That seems like a gargantuan feat, but all big changes start with small steps. There are many things you can do from your own home.
First, go organic for fertilizers and weed/insect control on your lawn, garden, and inside your home. Toxic products kill the ‘good’ bugs right along with the ones you want to kill. Going organic means the yard eventually takes care of itself as the beneficial insects eat or chase away the others. It may take a while if toxic products have been used in the past, but it’s worth the effort. In addition, organic solutions aren’t harmful to the larger animals, such as dogs, cats, squirrels, etc. Plant flowers and trees that attract the insects you want – and need – and repel the others. A healthy environment is left as natural as possible to let the ecosystem work as it was intended.
This also applies to weeds. Weeds like unhealthy soils (toxic soils that have lost their nutrients). Toxins can stay in the soil for a long time and, while it may turn your yard green quickly, it is not healthy for the grass or the tiny creatures in the soil that are trying to rid your yard of the undesirables. There are a number of natural weed killers, such as 30% vinegar and corn gluten meal.
Care for pets
If you have pets, be sure they’re spayed or neutered. The overflow of their offspring at shelters means many of these puppies and kittens are euthanized. Be a kind and thoughtful pet owner and prevent this unnecessary waste of life.
Watch what you buy – especially online. Avoid any products that might attract poachers, such as rhinoceros’ horns, exotic animal skins, or elephant tusks which can be made into art pieces. While this may seem an unnecessary comment, someone is buying these since poachers are still in business.
Endangered animals kept as exotic pets are illegal. This is another way poachers thrive and animals become extinct.
Think about what you throw away. We all know that plastics are a menace to our environment, and to many creatures. Plastic rings from cans and bottles can trap animals leading to a gruesome death. Cut them so they won’t entangle them. Plastics are invading, not only our landfills, parks, and beaches, but our oceans with dreadful consequences. There are substitutes for most plastics, investigate alternatives and gain new habits.
Our blue planet
We all have a responsibility to do our part in keeping our global home clean, thriving, healthy, and its creatures – large and small – living their natural lives without the harmful intervention of those who just don’t care.
On this Earth Day, think about one thing you are willing to do to make our world a better place for all of us who live here. Let Earth Day 2019 be a start of positive changes for all the creatures on our beautiful blue planet.