Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Alyssa from chicago, IL. Alyssa Wonders, “Why are animals endangered? ” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Alyssa!

Have you ever seen a rhino at the zoo? How about polar bears? For many people, sea turtles are the big draw. Did you know these animals are all endangered species?

You may have heard about giant pandas being endangered. You may even know that bald eagles are on the list. However, there are thousands of other endangered species. And they’re not all animals! Many endangered species are plants.

How does a species become endangered? It has to do with risk of extinction. Extinction is when no more members of a species are alive. You probably know about dinosaurs. They’re one example of animals that are extinct. 

When a species is at risk of becoming extinct, experts call them either “threatened” or “endangered.” A species is threatened when its population has dropped 30-50 percent. When a species is endangered, its population has dropped 50-70 percent. A species is also endangered if there are fewer than 250 remaining. 

Species can become endangered because of many factors. Often, they’re hurt by changing environments or predators. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) keeps track of endangered species. As of 2019, the IUCN has studied over 96,500 species. Of those, around 28,000 are threatened. 7,755 are endangered.

Many countries have passed laws to help endangered species. Some laws ban hunting. Others restrict land development. They also make special places for habitats. But experts believe very few threatened species benefit from these laws. Many more species face the threat of extinction without the public taking notice.

Any person can ask the government to list a species as endangered. However, it can take more than two years to get the species listed. Some believe that governments make it too hard for a species to be added to the endangered list.

For a species to be listed as endangered, experts must determine its conservation status. That’s the measure of the chance of extinction. To find this, experts must look at many factors. They need to know how many members of the species are living. They also need to find out how much the population has dropped over time. Other factors are the breeding rate and any threats to the species. With all of this information, experts can decide whether the species is endangered.

Despite these challenges, progress has been made. More than 196 countries around the world have agreed to make plans to protect endangered species. In the United States, these plans are made using guidelines from the Endangered Species Act. Overall, this act is seen by wildlife experts as helpful. As of 2019, 50 species have been taken off the list due to recovery. 

What can you do to help endangered species? The best thing you can do is learn more about the problem. Then, share information with those around you. You can also work to keep habitats safe. You can recycle, conserve water, and reduce your carbon footprint. Don’t ignore endangered species—they need your help!

Standards: NGSS.LS4.C, NGSS.LS4.D, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.W.3, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

Wonder What's Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day is…hmmm…we can’t remember what it’s about. We’re just like Dumbo sometimes! Or are we…?