A study shared with Garden & Health about the state of globally endangered species raised some eyebrows. Veterinarians and animal specialists who run the A Place for Animals website conducted it using information from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This global database outlines animals and plants facing threats like habitat loss. The findings suggest that America has the world’s second-highest amount of endangered species.
According to IUCN, the U.S. currently has more than 1,178 threatened animal species. That’s around 14.2% of America’s wildlife at risk. Only Indonesia has more, with 1,233 at risk, 11.9% of the Asian archipelago state’s animals.
Of the 42,100 species the IUCN says face extinction, 8,273 are in the U.S. It ranks only behind Indonesia (10,408), Brazil (8,873), and Australia (8,554).
These biodiverse countries are home to many reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals facing significant threats.
“These numbers highlight the urgent need to protect and care for different countries’ unique animals and environments,” wrote Lamis Dawi, author of the “Endangered Global Wildlife: 42,000+ Threatened Species, Statistics, And Forecasts.” “It’s crucial for nations to work together, especially as many areas are at risk due to climate change, which is making habitats disappear.”
Graphic Courtesy A Place for Animals
The type of endangered species varies, but there is a stark trend. According to the study, among the 42,100 species, amphibians (41%), mammals (27%), reptiles (21%), and birds (13%) were the most at risk. Animals play prominent roles in biodiversity, whether regulating herbivore populations, serving as pollinators, or acting as natural landscapers. Altruistic roles are critical in keeping ecosystems healthy.
Animals like turtles, salamanders, crocodiles, and migratory birds are seriously threatened. Some may go extinct within 100 years if action isn’t taken. Between 2006 and 2022, these animals have been dying out faster, with birds having a 7.2% extinction rate.
So, with this outlook, how can the challenge be met? Well, these numbers may be new, but the challenges are not.
In 1973, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act to expand federal protection to America’s plant and animal populations. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service enforce this law. They protect animals from poaching, unlicensed hunting, and overfishing.
National wildlife refuges are considered one of the best solutions, with 560 nationally. Since they are federal property, all refuge land is under heavy supervision and management. Biological processes are respected, and any commercial requests have to be approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, signed in November 2021, expanded environmental protection with a focus on endangered species.
Projects like the Delaware River Basin Restoration and Lake Tahoe Restoration aim to improve green infrastructure in these watershed areas. Animals and plants in these areas will benefit from decreased human interference. There is also the National Fish Passage Program, which improves aquatic habitats while reducing public safety hazards.
Birds need the most urgent conservation action. According to the National Wildlife Federation, nearly one-third of North American bird species are under threat. The organization hopes Congress will ratify the bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which will allocate $1.4 billion annually to protective efforts.
If passed, federal nature officials will work to restore habitats, control invasive species, reconnect migration routes, and stop diseases. Around $98 million of this will be invested into Tribal lands. As of June 2022, the bill passed through the House of Representatives and was introduced in the Senate.
A state-by-state breakdown of funding for saving endangered species is available on the National Wildlife Federation’s website.
Photo Courtesy Thomas Bonometti
Private Sector Efforts
Other initiatives run by non-governmental organizations and the private sector have helped. Gray wolves were reintroduced in northern Colorado to quell herbivore populations. Bees are being protected federally, but several startups utilize artificial intelligence technology to conserve and increase bee populations. Artificial reefs have also been launched in coastal areas to stop erosion and save marine ecosystems.
Wildlife is needed for biodiversity, but it also can mean business. According to the National Park Service, nature tourism generated more than $42.5 billion in 2022, with over 297 million visitors to U.S. National Parks. That also created 322,600 jobs and is a vital economic tool.
As conservation efforts increase from the government, private investments will hopefully do the same. Ideally, the next batch of IUCN data collection will have the U.S. lower on the list for the highest number of endangered species.