Why Are Species Endangered?

Contributor: Jay Gregorio. Lesson ID: 13332

Approximately 1-2 million species of animal live on earth! Sadly, the number of endangered animals continues to grow. Why is this happening? Can it be stopped? Find out here!


Life Science, People and Their Environment

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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The pangolin is an African and Asian mammal that has a body covered with horny, overlapping scales and a small head with an elongated snout. They are considered one of the most gorgeous mammals because of their uniquely tough appearance.

tree pangolin

You might think that any predator would be scared of this animal's defensive look. Surprisingly, all eight species of pangolins are under a serious survival threat ranging from being vulnerable to critically endangered.

  • What factors affect their survival?
  • What interventions have been enacted to protect these and all other animal species from becoming endangered?

Let's find out!

Endangered Species

The earth's biodiversity consists of many life forms including animals, plants, and even microorganisms.

  • How many species are currently alive on our planet?

It is hard to say for sure, but scientists estimate 8.7 million species live on earth. While we know that the lifespan of each species varies, there are reasons why some become threatened or endangered.

According to The Endangered Species Act of 1973:

  • Threatened refers to any species in near or immediate danger of becoming endangered throughout all or most of the area where it lives.
  • Endangered refers to any species in near or immediate danger of becoming extinct throughout all or most of the area where it lives.

Scientists estimate that dozens of species go extinct each day. While conservationists fight to protect all species from extinction, we will focus on animals in this lesson.

Sadly, too many animal species have left the earth completely in recent years. Let's take a look at five of them. (Drag the slider along the black line beneath the images to view all 5 animals.)

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Why Are Animals Endangered?

This is an important question to ask. Let's briefly discuss several factors:

Human Intervention

  • Have you ever gone shopping and seen a belt, bag, or shoes made out of an animal's skin?

The scales on pangolins, for instance, are sold for $3,000 per kilogram. This is an exploitation of animals for commercial use.

Animals are also used for scientific, educational, recreational, and entertainment purposes. All of this significantly reduces their populations.

Destruction of Habitat

Human civilization has changed the demographic of many regions on earth. If industrialization overwhelms a natural habitat, animals may lose their major food sources.

When their natural environment is altered, their adaptation skills are disrupted. Changes to the ecosystem can also cause extreme weather conditions which are fatal for the animals.

Pollution and Natural Disasters

This factor is closely related to the destruction of habitat.

Humans cause disruption across the planet with pollution, such as oil spills and acid rain. Natural disasters, such as extreme drought, flooding, earthquakes, and forest fires, can also be catastrophic to animals in the wild.

If an animal's natural habitat and food sources are diminished due to pollution or disaster, it is often not able to recover and find a new place to live.

Predation and Competition

The ecological system within a region must be balanced by the diversity of its species population. An ecosystem's complex food web must be sustainable to guarantee the survival of its inhabitants.

If a group of predators outnumbers its prey; this balance tips, and food sources become scarce. This leaves the other animals with no choice but to migrate to a new ecosystem.

Reproduction Rate

Some animal species have a very slow reproduction rate. This means they do not often conceive and give birth, so it is hard to build up their population naturally.

Female pandas, for example, are only able to conceive over a three to four day period once a year.

Genetic Vulnerability and Immunity

Just like people, animals are susceptible to illness. If the entire population of a species is exposed to a widespread disease to which they are not immune, it will significantly deplete their numbers.

Why Should We Care?

The world is shared by all living creatures. As one of the most advanced life forms on earth, you have the responsibility to protect and conserve all of the species that are part of the natural equilibrium.

  • Could you imagine a rainforest without any animals in it or flowers that bloom?

That would be really weird.

Every species is also dependent on each other for food. Just as we require plants and certain animals for our consumption, other animal's dependency on the predator-prey relationship to survive helps keep the balance in nature.

Endangered and threatened species are currently monitored by different organizations. These organizations include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, and the National Park Service. These federal agencies and other private organizations provide information so that you can understand how to protect them too.

For a list of animals currently threatened with extinction, check out the World Wide Life's Species Directory.

Move on to the Got It? section whenever you're ready!

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