Why do we need to save endangered species? Of what use are wildlife nearing extinction to the human race? This article lists four reasons why we should protect endangered species.
Some people do not understand the importance of keeping a healthy population of animals or plants on the planet. This article, therefore, aims to provide a deeper understanding of the need to preserve endangered species.
Why should we save endangered species? Here are four principal reasons why everyone should do their share in conserving these valuable natural resources:
Four Reasons for Saving Endangered Species
The following are the potential benefits from plants and animals that may be facing extinction:
1. Medicinal value
The drug digitalis, derived from purple foxglove, prevented the death of millions of people. Digitalis is used to treat congestive heart failure (CHF), fluid retention, irregular heartbeat, asthma, epilepsy, tuberculosis, headache, constipation, headache, and spasm. It can also heal wounds and burns. Withering (1785) described the healing properties of the plant as early as the 18th century.
This observation means that if one plant species gets extinct, the potential benefits, such as a source of medicine, will be forfeited. However, many plants may be nearing extinction without our knowledge. These plants could contain thousands of important compounds that can lengthen the human lifespan.
Plants are not the only source of medicine. Animals have medicinal properties, too. Here is a list of animals and their medicinal uses:
- leeches – secretions prevent coagulation and inflammation
- vipers – elements in their venom control blood pressure
- scorpion – brain tumor research uses its venom
- shark – utilized in the study of certain forms of cancer and muscle degeneration
- bees – honeybee products prevent microbes from thriving
- lizards – secrete a toxin that may benefit diabetes sufferers
- frog – produces compounds that prevent infection
2. Agricultural value
Wild species of plants can be a source of vital genes to improve crops that are grown today. Among those genes that scientists splice from the DNAs of plants are pest or disease resistance, salt tolerance, and drought resistance. These properties can help counter the effects of global climate change.
While there are concerns about the products of genetic engineering such as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), these products helped attain food security. People have had a reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. For example, genetic material from a wild corn species stopped a leaf fungus that previously wiped out 15% of US corn crop. Thus, more crop production ensued.
Animals such as gecko and spiders are also important natural pest control agents. Geckos feed on at least five different kinds of pests while spiders are known to prey on cockroaches.
3. Ecological value
Have you heard the popular quote “No man is an island?” No man stands alone.
Animal or plant extinction can drastically change an ecosystem.
Just like humans, an individual plant or animal could not live by itself. It has to interact with the other organisms as well as its environment to survive. Removing one animal or plant species from the ecosystem will compromise the life of other organisms that interact with it.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, one lost plant species can lead to the loss of 30 other insects, plant, and other animal species found in the higher levels of the food chain. These individual species of plant or animal are sometimes called the keystone species. If that species is removed, the whole ecosystem will be changed drastically.
Examples to illustrate this importance of endangered species and how they link with other organisms are the following:
- northern spotted owl – health indicator of the ancient forest of the Pacific Northwest
- gray wolf – controls the population of the elk
- killer whale – affects the diet of bald eagles (see illustration below)
Killer whales affect the diet of bald eagles.
The illustration shows the food chain dynamics in Alaska. If killer whales deplete the population of otters, the population of sea urchins will increase. Overfeeding of large algae by sea urchins will leave no place to hide or breeding places for fish that in turn will migrate to other areas. Once the fishes migrate, the bald eagle population switch their diet to marine birds. In this case, it appears that the keystone species are the sea otters.
4. Bequest value
Leaving out a legacy for the next generation is a desirable value. We would like our children also to enjoy the benefits that could be gained from wildlife species, not only of their mere existence but for the potential benefits that they can provide.
How to Conserve Endangered Species
Endangered animals and plants, therefore, must be conserved by all means possible. Doable initiatives include the following strategies:
- rehabilitation of degraded lands,
- sustainable harvesting of timber and other natural products,
- pollution reduction and prevention,
- waste reduction and management, and
- development of innovative strategies to conserve endangered species.
Can you think of other ways to conserve endangered species?
WebMD, n.d. Digitalis. Retrieved on May 23, 2014 from http://goo.gl/VvlfYD
Withering, W. (1785). An account of the foxglove, and some of its medical uses: with practical remarks on dropsy and other diseases. Classics of Medicine Library.
Zoo Granby, 2014. Why protect endangered species… So what? Retrieved on May 23, 2014 from http://goo.gl/6zFiZn
© 2014 May 23 P. A. Regoniel