Unless you live under a rock, someone at some point has probably tried to talk to you about animal extinction. Whether it was an anxious zoo employee, an enthusiastic vegan friend, or even your mom, you probably didn’t put too much stock into what they were saying. After all, aren’t there millions of animal species?
According to new reports, humans have wiped out an astonishing 60 per cent of animal populations since 1970. That isn’t a typo. Sixty. Per cent.
Despite being aware of specific decline, humans continue to engage in behaviours that are detrimental to many species. From deforestation, to pollution, to climate change, homo sapiens have been the animal kingdom’s bad neighbour for a long time.
Extinction is such a problem that there’s even a popular English idiom alluding to it: to ‘go the way of the dodo,’ meaning that something ceases to exist. It’s a reference to the infamous extinction of the dodo bird, which humans decimated within 200 years of arriving on the island on which it was once abundant. I remember hearing the phrase as a child and thinking it was normal, if not a little sad. Now, as an adult, it seems repulsive that the human race could make light of such a heavy topic.
While some species are more pertinent to the maintenance of human survival than others, it’s important to note that humans are often the direct cause for these extinctions. Furthermore, some animal rights groups are actively fighting to “save” animals that aren’t even at risk, let alone critically endangered; PETA is particularly notorious for this. This not only takes valuable campaigning away from animals that are actually at risk, but also massively inflates our environmentalist egos. You may think you’re doing animals a great justice by petitioning to save those sweet little white baby harp seals, but they’ve never been endangered. In fact, their population has increased dramatically since the early 1980’s, jumping from roughly half a million to what is estimated to be over 9 million today.
Meanwhile, other animal species have disappeared. To name two species that most of our generation likely saw alive in zoos, the western black rhinoceros went extinct in 2011, and just this September, the blue macaw was declared extinct in the wild.
This problem of so-called animal rights groups campaigning to save animals that aren’t actually endangered is age-old. If an animal is cute, like the harp seal, it’s image can be easily exploited, therefore becoming a money-maker for the group. These groups unabashedly use the image of these animals to promote their own interests while ignoring the animals that are really in danger of extinction.
There’s no question that animal extinction is a huge problem, or that humans have caused this problem themselves. The spread of misinformation about extinction needs to end — we need to buck up as a species and look after our furry (as well as not-so-furry) friends.
Animals cannot stop us from doing what we do, but we can stop ourselves. If you want to start helping now, you can donate online to the Center for Wildlife, or you could always consider doing a mission abroad. You can also help in your everyday life by doing things like not buying products that contain palm oil. Whatever you do, we all need to make a conscious effort to stop animal extinction now, and not after it’s too late.