Endangered Species

Endangered Species

Have you heard about April the giraffe’s live stream birth? It’s likely you have, considering at last check the archived footage from the April 14th birth – shown on Animal Adventure Park’s “Giraffe Cam” – had well over 14.7 million views. One might assume this level of fandom for one giraffe and her calf indicates an interest in not only April’s well being but that of her wild relatives, as well. And perhaps that assumption is true given that five environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Humane Society International, and International Fund for Animal Welfare recently petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to add the giraffe to the endangered species list.

Scientists estimate the giraffe population has declined 40% over the past 30 years, leaving just 97,000 individuals in the wild. While the US can not directly prevent the killing of giraffes in Africa, the regulation of imports – including trophy kills (which accounts for over 3,700 deaths over the past decade) – could help stem the decline of the species.

Animals like the giraffe, as well as the leatherback sea turtle, lowland gorilla, Amur leopard, and right whale – pictured above – face population decline for various reasons. The most common causes, however, were taught to me in the beginning years of my environmental education career as an acronym: HIPPO.

H – Habitat Loss – the National Wildlife Federation lists habitat loss, due to destruction, fragmentation, or degradation as the primary threat to the survival of wildlife in the US. The biggest pressures on natural habitats include agriculture, industrial development, and urban sprawl. What we can do: The National Wildlife Federation works to protect wildlife by advocating for habitat protection and conservation. They offer ideas for others to get involved, including talking to your legislators, writing a letter to the editor, or creating a garden for wildlife. (See “For Families” below for more details on their certified wildlife garden program.)

I – Introduced or Invasive Species – invasive species are the second largest threat to biodiversity after habitat loss. They compete with or prey on native species, alter habitats, and introduce pathogens. What we can do: The Nature Conservancy suggests, among other things, volunteering at a local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species, and working to educate others about the threats posed by invasive species.

P – Population Increase – the human population has increased more rapidly in the past 50 years than in any other point in history. Our numbers have grown from 3 billion in 1960 to 7.5 billion today, increasing our demand on land, food, water, energy, and other resources. What we can do: The Worldwatch Institute lists nine population strategies to keep our population from exceeding 9 billion. One of those nine suggestions is integrating lessons on population, environment, and development into school curricula at multiple levels.

P – Pollution – the specific pollution concerns the World Wildlife Fund lists as harmful to wildlife, includes toxic chemicals, ocean litter, pesticides and fertilizers, air pollution, and noise and light pollution. The impacts from these pollutants include toxic chemical build up, acid rain, harmful algal blooms, ocean garbage patches and more. What we can do: The World Wildlife Fund offers an extensive list of green living tips that reduce pollution, including using local ingredients, ditching plastic grocery bags, and using efficient settings on your washing machine and dishwasher.

O – Overconsumption – in the 2007 online mini-movie, “The Story of Stuff,” story-teller, researcher, and activist, Annie Leonard, stated that “in the past three decades alone, one-third of the planet’s natural resources base have been consumed.” And that was 10 years ago! Her theory is that planned obsolescence and marketing schemes encourage a consumer-driven populace that extorts natural resources (and certain communities) for the sake of having more stuff – negatively impacting wildlife in the process. What we can do:  Leonard’s suggestion: “what we really need to chuck is this old-school throw-away mindset. There’s a new school of thinking on this stuff and it’s based on sustainability and equity: Green Chemistry, Zero Waste, Closed Loop Production, Renewable Energy, Local living Economies.” See the (still relevant) Story of Stuff here:

While scientists believe we may be facing the world’s sixth mass extinction event – the first in human history – and that a widespread change in global distribution of organisms is afoot, some believe it can be stopped. After all, as one Mother Nature Network writer quips, “unlike an asteroid, we [humans] can be reasoned with.” Aside from the ideas listed above, experts believe taking the following steps (complied by CNN writer John Sutter) can thwart the current trend:

  1. Stop burning fossil fuels
  2. Protect half the Earth’s land and oceans
  3. Fight illegal wildlife trafficking
  4. Slow human population growth
  5. Reconnect with the natural world

Easy-peasey – let’s get to it!

To Do This Month:

Check out this lesson plan about the causes of extinction (featuring HIPPO) for grades 3-5.

Join the staff and volunteers at the UW Arboretum in tracking the endangered rusty-patched bumble bee. Find out more about this new addition the endangered species list from NPR.

Our joint Events Calendar includes several land steward days coming up this weekend, including at the UW Arboretum, Aldo Leopold Nature Center, and Community Groundworks. Educators: there’s a Project WET & WILD Workshop being offered through UW-Stevens Point. And don’t miss free guided nature walks at the UW Arboretum, Warner Park, Aldo Leopold Foundation, and Edna Taylor Conservation Park.  So much to see and do!

May Events

Our Fav Book on Endangered Species

International Crane Foundation

Origami Crane

Sign up to receive these blog posts monthly

For Educators:

Poetry Contest

Calling all poets! Want to get your students thinking about endangered species in a creative way? This year, the International Crane Foundation is celebrating cranes and the places they live through poetry. Children and adults are invited to enter the Poetry in the Prairie competition. All poetic forms, from Haiku, Limerick, and Free Verse to Ode and Fable are welcome in celebration of our favorite birds and the wild places they need to thrive. Entries will be accepted in the following levels: Grades 3-6, Grades 7-9, Grades 10-12, and Adults. Entries will be judged by Karla Huston, Poet Laureate of Wisconsin; Julie Zickefoose, author and artist; and James Blackburn, environmental lawyer and poet. Winning poems will be printed on panels to be exhibited throughout the International Crane Foundation exhibit areas and trails through October 31, 2017. To apply, submissions must be in a Microsoft Word document and be no longer than one page, 10 pt. type, double-spaced. Poems should be about cranes, prairies, or wetlands. Email to submit your best poem. Entries will be accepted through midnight Central Time, May 31, 2017.

Full details here! 

For Families:

Certified Wildlife Habitat


Certify your own yard this month!

According to the National Wildlife Federation “every habitat garden is a step toward replenishing resources for wildlife locally and along migratory corridors.” That’s why their Garden for Wildlife program suggests that “anyone can create a welcoming haven for local wildlife.” To become a certified Wildlife Habitat, your yard, school grounds, or organizational grounds must include food, water, cover, places to raise young, and use sustainable practices. NWF provides a checklist of desired features – some as easy as nectar and pollen sources, a birdbath, and a brush pile. The certification is $20, and for an additional fee, you can order a yard sign, flag, or plaque to display on your property. (PS the yard sign option is 20% off through the end of this month.)

If your habitat includes pollinator and monarch friendly plants, your space will count towards the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge which is hosted by the National Pollinator Garden Network that aims to register a million public and private gardens and landscapes to support pollinators. You can also become a Butterfly Hero!

Betsy bylineCopy of Betsy bylineBetsy Parker is an environmental educator who supports all children, families, and classrooms getting their recommended daily allowance of #VitaminN.
Funding for Nature Net and the Nature Net News blog is provided by American Girl Fund for Children.