Photo: Aidan Warnock
Santa Monica High School

Protecting endangered species

The news that we humans are destroying the planet should not come as a surprise to anybody. Every year, we tear down large swathes of the environment and hunt animals for sport.

Species such as the giraffe, rhino and tiger are hunted for “medicinal ingredients” that are no more than fur or nail. In fact, the horns of rhinos are indeed just giant fingernails that happen to grow from their heads. But sadly, according to the group Save the Rhino, since 2008, some 6,000 African Rhinos have been poached for a mere nail on their heads. In addition, thousands of animals are driven from their burrows and starve due to environmental destruction.

In 2012, the International Union of Nature Conservation released the Red List, a study of animals on Earth and their threat levels. According to this list, some 19,900 species were listed as endangered, with four moved to the extinct category. It is unreasonable that, for reasons mostly caused by man, animal populations are being ravaged. However, for all the harm humans do, some are trying to make up for it.

Zoos and wildlife parks worldwide have protected animals and allowed them to breed in safety. Currently, 51 species are on the extinct in the wild list, meaning that zoos are the only place in the world in which they live. From there, these species can make a rebound through breeding, both natural and artificial, and be reintroduced to the wild. For example, the numbers of the California Condor were reduced to a mere 25 birds in the 1980s, but thanks to the San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Park, these birds have been making a comeback and currently approximately 450 of them exist, with many flying free. Clearly zoos are doing a lot of good for the world. By this example alone, for every gorilla shot, there are hundreds of animals reintroduced, species restored and ecosystems rebuilt.

The San Diego Zoo goes above and beyond and does something most zoos don’t, as they offer a wildlife park. It is a massive 1,800-acre area on which many animals roam free and are able to live very close to how they would normally. Among these are rhinos, buffalo, multiple types of deer, giraffes and other creatures, many of which are critically endangered.

The San Diego Zoo is also willing to take one up close to these critters and behind the scenes to meet up close a variety of animals which would otherwise never come in contact with. On my own trip there, I was able to feed giraffes and okapi, and meet a binturong and a South American three-banded armadillo. Experiences like this encourage people to feel for, and do more for these animals, even past the level a zoo normally does. It was a lasting experience that shows how important these animals are, and additionally brought the animals in question into a new light and understanding. It was that trip which inspired this piece.

I would highly recommend people to go to zoos or other parks. No media can replace the experience of actually going and seeing these animals firsthand. While trips can be expensive, they are well worth the cost in what they pay back to the world. In addition to educating people and bringing them closer to animals, they help fund zoos’ many expenses. Supporting zoos such as the one in San Diego will allow them to better care for the animals and expand conservation efforts. Conservation missions are difficult and long but aiding them will help make up the damage we have done to this world, and maybe someday we won’t need zoos at all if we do our part.

1380 Protecting endangered species
Photo: Aidan Warnock
1334 Protecting endangered species
Photo: Aidan Warnock

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