May 16 – Endangered Species Day

Posted on May 16, 2014

The official website for Endangered Species Day offers downloadable materials and a list of events. There is also a nice slideshow of youth art about the theme. Check it out!

There is a new TV show called “Extant” that I have seen advertised recently. I don't know whether or not it will have something to do with species survival, but the word extant is the opposite of extinct. Obviously, a species is extinct if there is not one surviving organism of that species alive. If you have one or two or hundreds or billions of that species alive, it's extant.

But what about the term endangered? How low do populations have to drop for a species to be categorized as endangered? Are there other criteria for an endangered species?

The criteria is way too complicated for me to accurately describe it here. However, I will provide some comparison 

  • Extinct – Scientists only call a species extinct when there have been careful surveys of the creature's known habitat at the appropriate time of day and year, and such widespread, long-lasting surveys leave no reasonable doubt that every last creature has died.
  • Extinct in the wild – When a population of organisms has been collected by zoos or rescue organizations in an effort to protect and breed them, usually with the hope that they can be reintroduced back into the wild – and when the exhaustive survey described above turns up no other members of that species, it is considered extinct in the wild.
  • Critically endangered (possibly extinct) – This unofficial category is used by some scientists when there are still unconfirmed sightings of a creature, or when there have not yet been widespread surveys to confirm a feared extinction.
  • Critically endangered – The criteria is too complex for me to represent accurately here, but I can give you some idea: if the population of a creature has dropped 90% over the past ten years, and seems to be still dropping, and/or there are fewer than 50 mature individuals still alive, and/or the chances of extinction over the next decade are 50% or more, it's likely categorized as CE.
  • Endangered – This is more along the lines of a 70% drop over the past decade, and/or fewer than 250 mature individuals, and/or the likelihood of extinction in the next decade is about 20%.
  • Vulnerable – Around 50% population drop, and/or population of fewer than 1000 mature individuals, and/or the chance of extinction in the wild is estimated at 10% within the next decade.
  • Near Threatened – Just like it sounds – the species doesn't qualify as endangered or vulnerable, but it nearly does.
  • Data Deficient, Not Evaluated – Some creatures haven't been studied well enough to be categorized.

Here's a question for you... The answer is easy, but a lot of people don't think about it often enough...

Are the only endangered animals that matter the ones that are cute...

...or do “ugly” creatures matter, too?

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