According to Wildscreen, endangered species are animal or plant species that are threatened with extinction. The number of representatives left in such species is low to the extent that they can easily disappear from the planet if little or no attention is given to their survival. In addition, endangered species are experiencing a decrease in their populations. These facts have further raised fears of extinction. Notably, countless species have already gone extinct as a result of various natural processes. Among the best examples that are known is the extinction of dinosaurs. Moreover, many species are thought to have gone extinct before their discovery. In the past, extinction was widely attributed to various natural processes. However, it is clear that the current rate of extinction has exceeded the natural processes. The dramatic rate at which endangered animals become extinct has raised concern across the world. Since natural processes can lead to extinction, some people have argued that the efforts should not be wasted in attempting to save endangered species. On the contrary, the accelerating extinction of animals, as well as plants can no longer be attributed to the natural causes (Mazzotti 2). This paper is aimed at discussing the protection of endangered species and its significance.
Sources of Extinction and Threats to Endangered Animals
Currently, animals and plants face a number of threats. In most cases, different human activities contribute to the extinction of plants and animals. These threats include habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, hunting and poaching, climate change, pollution, and diseases. The constant increase in the world population has resulted in the habitat loss and fragmentation. The increasing population demands more space and resources. Consequently, land is constantly cleared to provide space for human settlements. Equally, the use of building materials, such as timber, creation of space for agricultural activities and construction of transport links affect the normal operation of some species. Finally, pollutants, such as acid rains, plastic wastes, heavy metals, oil spills and pesticides often make the environment unsuitable for animals and plants and, consequently, may lead to extinction (Wildscreen 1).
People have hunted or fished a wide variety of animals and fish beyond the sustainable levels. Consequently, the species that have been excessively hunted face extinction. Some species, such as tiger, have been hunted for the valuable resources they provide, such as food, fur, or traditional ‘medicine.’ It is worth noting that people have persecuted some species, such as cheetah, for ‘disturbing their peace.’ For instance, the animals that stray from parks are usually killed for posing a threat to human safety or feeding upon crops or livestock (Wildscreen 1). The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) (1) notes that the rate at which the endangered species are hunted is higher than the natural world can replenish.
People have been constantly introducing non-native species accidentally, as well as intentionally, to a number of habitats. This activity usually has some devastating impacts on such habitats. Since the introduced species become highly adaptable to the new environment, it may out-compete the native species for available resources. Similarly, the introduced predators may reduce the number of native species that have no adaptation necessary in order to avoid predation. Such a move may be detrimental to the ground dwelling birds such as the kakapo. Both human activities and natural processes have also contributed to climate change, which also threatens the existence of certain species. Droughts, storms, melting of glaciers and ocean acidification often result from climate change. They might also minimize the chances of survival for animals that are not adapted to withstanding such harsh conditions (Wildscreen 1).
The Significance of Conservation of Endangered Species
Peoples’ understanding of the significance of endangered animals and plants has increased over time. In addition, people have become aware of the fact that their activities cause extinction. This increasing knowledge should be utilized in order to conserve the endangered animals and plants that are fast disappearing from their natural habitat, mainly due to various human factors. Benefits that endangered species can give people are categorized as economic, social, as well as environmental. Any particular species can give certain benefits to people. Hence, some species are considered more valuable than others. Therefore, people would tend to conserve animal species depending on their perceived importance. Nevertheless, the conservation of endangered species requires certain knowledge beyond the benefits of a particular species in question. Having an understanding concerning why so many species of plants and animals are important in the ecosystem is more valuable in the course of conservation (Mazzotti 2).
Conservation of Biodiversity
Numerous species of plants and animals inhabit the earth. Although scientists have only classified about 1.7 million species, the number of species inhabiting the earth could be between 10 and 50 millions. Remarkably, none of these species exists in a vacuum. All the living organisms form part of the biosphere, a complex and delicately balanced network. In turn, the biosphere is composed of numerous ecosystems that comprise animals and plants, as well as physical environments (UFWS, 6). Therefore, the conservation of endangered animals is important in the conservation of the biological diversity. Although the total bearing of extinction is not usually superficial and is not easy to predict, it is obvious that it is necessary to conserve the biological diversity in order to ensure the intact ecosystems. The loss of a single species in an ecosystem can initiate a chain of reactions that may end up affecting numerous species. Such reactions are particularly true for “keystone” species, such as the gray wolf (Mazzotti 2).
The disappearance of keystone species can impact or transform ecological processes. The disappearance of the gray wolf from Yellowstone National Park saw the increase in the elk population. This large population was undermining the existence of aspen, willows and other trees that grew along the streams. When the gray wolf was restored to the park, it began controlling the elk population. The controlled elk population ensured the recovery of trees; the trees cool the streams. The streams are beneficial to native trout and avail the nesting habitats or migratory birds. In addition, the growth of willows is beneficial to beavers that feed on the branches. The marshland created due to the beavers’ dams forms a habitat for minks, otters, and ducks. The threatened grizzly bear also benefit from the restored wolves. Grizzlies find it cumbersome to kill an elk on their own (UFWS 7).
Marine species, such as sharks, are also on the brink of extinction. Thus, it is of great importance that people pay attention to this problem and stop this development. Undoubtedly, among other animals, sharks are not very lovable or cuddly. Nonetheless, sharks are important for a healthy and balanced marine ecosystem. Given that sharks are top predators in the ocean, it is believed that they keep the population of their prey in check (Watson 105). Although the environmental impact of the eliminating sharks from the marine ecosystem is complex, it is believed that eliminating this control unit is likely to have detrimental effects on the ecosystem. Human activities that threaten the existence of sharks include longlining, shark finning, and overfishing. Most sharks grow at a slow pace. It takes much time to become mature. Sharks also have a long gestation period. In addition, they give birth to a small number of large youngs. Hence, once depleted, the shark population cannot recover at all or can recover at a very slow pace (Watson 106). The number of representatives in certain species, such as Hammerhead, Scalloped, Thresher Shark and White Shark, has shrunken by approximately 75% over the past fifteen years (Medical Daily 1).
Certain species of animals are important as they act as indicators of the environmental quality. The endangered species indicate when something is wrong with the life-support system. For instance, the drastic decline of peregrine falcons and bald eagles may warn of the dangers associated with the use of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). A number of non-endangered animals have also been used to monitor the environmental quality. Largemouth bass has been used in Florida to warn of the contamination of freshwater ecosystems with mercury. In the absence of environmental monitors, it would only be possible to learn of such contaminants after they have caused several damages to people and various species using the contaminated resources (Mazzotti 3).
Currently, solutions of problems facing the agricultural sector in the tropical region may lie on the organisms that are yet to be discovered. It would be unwise to lose such organisms before their benefits are realized. Therefore, it is important to preserve biodiversity (Mazzotti 2). There are a number of the unrecognized benefits that come by maintaining biological diversity in the ecosystem. These benefits include services that people receive when the ecosystem functions normally. The usual function of the ecosystem comprises soil regeneration, chemical cycling, including the production of oxygen by rainforests, energy fixation, and flood protection (Mazzotti 3).
Medicinal Value of Endangered Animals
Protecting biological diversity is important given its contribution to the field of medicine. Insofar, scientists have carried out investigations only on a small percentage of the world’s species. The little that has been done has helped reveal different chemical secrets that various species have with regard to finding solutions to human health problems. No matter how insignificant a species might appear today, it could be of direct importance to the human race in the future. Therefore, the loss of biodiversity is proving to be costly to humanity and should be reversed (UFWS 7). For instance, the extinction of Rheobatrachus, a gastric brooding frog species, was a big loss to the field of medicine. Research on the species was supposed to help in curing peptic ulcers, a disease that currently affects millions of people. Nevertheless, the species disappeared with valuable medical secrets. Unfortunately, this development cannot be reversed as the species is gone forever (Joshi 1).
The possibility to invent a new generation of antibiotics or novel treatments for cancer, kidney failure, as well as a number of other diseases are dependent on the materials obtained from various living organisms. Several groups of animals that are of medicinal value are currently faced with the threats of extinction. These species include amphibians, non-human primates, cone snails, horseshoe shrubs, bears, and sharks. Their significance medically underscores the importance of ensuring that they are conserved. Although these groups of animals are important, it may be too late when the world realizes this after they have disappeared (Medical Daily 1). Shockingly, according to the current estimates, a quarter of the world’s mammals, a third of all amphibians and an eighth of birds are endangered (Wildscreen 1).
Amphibians are availing new opportunities of treatments and medical research. It is suggested that studying certain amphibians might result into the development of new types of more powerful and safer painkillers. Studying salamanders and newts may give scientists more insight into how the lost tissues could be regenerated. Several species of salamanders and newts can regenerate tissues, such as the nerve tissue, which is in the spinal cord or heart muscle, and even whole organs. Pumiliotoxins are currently obtained from amphibians. It can be useful components of medicines that strengthen the contraction of the heart muscles. Hence, it can prove to be useful in the treatment of different heart diseases. Maximakinins and Bradykinins are normally secreted in the skin glands of certain species of frogs. If injected in mammals, these secretions are capable of inducing the dilation of smooth muscles of the blood vessels. Therefore, Maximakinins and Bradykininsm offer promising ways of treating high blood pressure. Alkaloids produced by certain species of amphibians can be used in the preparation of painkillers. Equally, a frog produces some glue that can be used to make adhesives essential in repairing cartilage and other tissue tears (Medical Daily 1).
A substance isolated from certain sharks, such as dogfish, known as squalamine, can be used in the production of a new generation of antibiotics. The substance may also be used for the treatment of protozoan and fungal infections. Currently, further studies are aimed at establishing the possibility of using squalamine compounds as appetite-suppressant and antitumor substances. Scientists are researching on squalamine for the treatment of age related macular degeneration. The complication can lead to severe vision loss. The substance is thought to be capable of halting the growth of new blood cells in the retina. This growth is associated with the loss of the retinal function that consequently leads to blindness in such patients. In addition, salt glands of certain sharks are studied to understand how human kidneys function. The research is also aimed at gaining insight into how chloride ions are transported by the body system across membranes. A breakthrough in the study may enable the treatment of polycystic kidney disease and cystic fibrosis (Medical Daily 1).
It should be noted that bears are extensively killed for certain body parts, such as gall bladders. Thus, they are on the verge of extinction. Their bladders are sold at the high prices in the black markets in such countries as China, Thailand, and Japan. The ursodeoxycholic acid, extracted from the gall bladder of a bear, can be useful in the treatment of a number of medical conditions. The following acid helps in preventing the buildup of bile in women during pregnancy. The substance also prolongs the life of individuals suffering from primary biliary cirrhosis. The prolonged time gives the patients more time to arrange for a liver transplant. The ursodeoxycholic acid can also dissolve specific kinds of a liver transplant. The substance allows understanding and treating various diseases related to renal failure and osteoporosis (Medical Daily 1).
Cone snails are also among endangered animals. Peptide found in this species is a valuable medicine. Ziconotide, a compound that is also found in cone snail, is thought to be a thousand times more potent than morphine. Ziconotide has been shown to provide a substantial pain relief for the AIDS and cancer patients in the clinical trials. Another component obtained from cone snail has shown, in animal models, to protect the brain cells from death in case of the inadequate flow of blood to the brain. The development could mark a breakthrough for people suffering a stroke or head injuries. The therapy could be important in the treatment of patients with Alzheimer and Parkinson (Medical Daily 1).
Certain species of horseshoe crabs are endangered. They are used in the production of certain medicines. It should be noted that in addition to four eyes, these species have six other light-detecting organs. When exposed to the air, the blood of these horseshoe crabs turns cobalt blue. Numerous peptides have been extracted from the blood to produce a wide range of antibacterial agents. Other cells in the blood of these species have the ability to detect the presence of certain bacteria in the spinal cord of patients suspected to have cerebral meningitis. The test with the blood cells is very sensitive and can detect bacteria at concentration of one picogram per milliliter of the test solution (Medical Daily 1).
People use a number of endangered species in the treatment of various diseases, as well as food and source of important resources. People should understand that hunting for any species whatever the aim is could lead to invertible consequences. The current understanding of the significance of all species in the planet should make people embrace conservation and improve management of endangered species, as well as the ecosystems they inhabit. It is clear that modern and future treatment of different human diseases depend on various living organisms. Therefore, the loss or extinction of animals, including mammals, amphibians and birds, at this stage would be an appalling tragedy to the health sector. The maintenance of biological diversity ensures the perpetuation of both animals and plants in the ecosystem. Remarkably, plants and animals have been beneficial to humans; they have acted as sources of food, medicines, clothing, structural materials, and energy. However, the ecosystem can only continue to act as a source to such essential resources if its great diversity is conserved. Despite the numerous threats of extinction that face endangered animals, these can be brought under control if every individual would make the conservation of all species his or her own responsibility.
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