The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, which means that 2013 has marked the 40th anniversary of this nation-wide government-funded conservation effort. The ESA was originally enacted with the hope of protecting America’s endangered, threatened, and at-risk species. And to that end, it’s been overwhelmingly successful. In the four decades since the legislation was signed into law, the ESA has managed to prevent the extinction of 99% of the species in its protection. And currently, the ESA is overseeing the management of over 1,400 US species as well as 600 foreign ones.
The preamble to the Endangered Species Act states that threatened species “are of esthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people,“ which explains why extinction prevention is so incredibly important. Unfortunately, as human population continues to expand and encroach on natural habitats, the threat to already-dwindling animal populations only increases.
In the autumn of 2013, the Western Black Rhino was officially declared extinct. And tragically, Black Rhinos are not alone. Over 2,000 animal species are listed as “critically endangered,” some with population numbers so low they dip into single digits. In fact, unless we can find a way to intervene, the following five might be the next to disappear completely.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
1) The Kakapo Parrot of New Zealand is a large, flightless, ground-dwelling bird. Strangely nocturnal and sometimes called the owl parrot, the Kakapo population was devastated when humans introduced ferrets and weasels into its habitat, in an attempt to reduce the number of wild rabbits. These predators preyed heavily on the Kakapo, and now there are so few left in the wild that scientists have given each one his or her own name.
2) Native to Vietnam and Laos, and known as the “Asian Unicorn,” the Soala is so rare that it’s become almost mythical. The small forest mammal is related to goats and antelopes, and both males and females bear a pair of long straight horns atop their fawnlike heads. None exist in captivity, and Soala sightings in the wild are incredibly rare.
3) The Rabb’s Fringe-Limbed Treefrog is a large frog native to Panama, characterized by the substantial webbing and scalloped fringes along its bulb-toed feet. A strange fungal disease has driven the population to near-extinction and since February of 2012, there is now only one known male individual, who is living at Zoo Atlanta in Georgia. Captivity breeding programs have largely failed.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
4) The Ivory-Billed Woodpecker is likely already extinct. Native to the southeastern United States, the Ivory-Billed is one of the largest species of woodpeckers in the entire world. Although there have been reports of sightings as late as the mid-2000s, there is no conclusive evidence for its existence, despite extensive searching.
5) The Franklin’s Bumblebee lives in a very narrow distribution range, covering a small 190- by 70-mile area in northern California and southern Oregon. The species began its decline in the early 1990s, along with bumblebee and honeybee populations worldwide. There have been no confirmed wild sightings of a Franklin’s Bumblebee since 2006. Threats to the species include diseases introduced from the commercial bumble bee trade, habitat loss, pesticides and pollution.
Other bee species have faced population decline due to pesticide use. Sign the petition below to urge the EPA to ban neonicotinoids, which have been tied to bee colony deaths.
Forty years ago, American legislators made a commitment to try and preserve the rich diversity of species on our planet. That fight continues today, in many ways, all across the globe. If you would like to help, please consider donating to one of these rescue organizations: Defenders of Wildlife or the World Wildlife Fund.