Happy World Wildlife Day! Today is a day to celebrate the incredible species we share this planet with - from as small as zooplankton to as large as a blue whale. When we're in our homes on our computers, it's easy to forget the thousands of other earthlings we coexist with, but their existence contributes to a healthy, biodiverse planet that provides us with clean air, water, and food. Essentially, healthy wildlife helps us stay alive.
Many of you know that my marine biology experience has been almost exclusively with endangered species. That's because right now, we are in the middle of the 6th mass extinction. There have only been 5 so far over the course of Earth's 4.5 billion year history, and yet, we've managed to damage our planet enough that species are going extinct every day. Somewhere between 1/2 and 2/3 of all living things on Earth are expected to go extinct by the end of this century. Extinction reduces the biodiversity of our ecosystems and makes them less stable. Less stable, unbalanced ecosystems cannot support us or handle the impacts of climate change. That's why it's so important to do everything we can to save our wildlife.
Here's a few things you can do right now to save our wildlife and prevent species extinction.
There are hundreds of conservation organizations all over the world working every single day to save wildlife on the edge of extinction. I'd encourage you to look up an animal you love that may be threatened with extinction on the IUCN website and search an organization that is helping them. Maybe its orangutans, the vaquita, or rhinos from Africa. When you find an organization you love, set up a recurring donation monthly to support their work. You have no idea how much $5 a month makes a difference. Follow their website and social media for project updates, so you know exactly what type of work you're helping make possible.
If you want to do more than donate, look up a conservation organization in your zip code and send them an email to volunteer. Most of these organizations are built from the work of committed volunteers, meaning they are always eager to train someone that wants to help. Consistent, committed volunteers are some of the most valuable team members an organization can half. Volunteering helps give you a role in saving our wildlife, and you can tangibly see the impact you're making. There's no better feeling knowing you're helping an animal get another chance at survival.
3. Educate Yourself & Others
If you commit to learning more about the challenges that face our wildlife, you'll see there's so much to learn, and so much to help with. Follow conservation accounts, read articles, and share what you've learned widely. You'll find that many animals face some of the same threats - climate change, habitat loss, lack of food, and interactions with human activities. That means that by making individual changes to solve these problems, you're actually helping hundreds of species survive. This is the most valuable thing you can start doing today.
There's no way we will be able to address the extinction crisis in time without policies, enforcement, and government partnerships. That means that our political representatives must know how important this issue is to us! Give them a call, send an email, or write them a letter so they know they must take immediate action. When the times comes to cast your vote, make sure you're choosing a leader that sees the value in our wildlife.
I've committed my life to protecting endangered species, meaning that for me, world wildlife day is every single day. But we don't need you to commit your entire life, we just need millions of people dedicated to saving wildlife in an imperfect way. Maybe that's one of these tips, maybe it's something else. No matter what, we can all do something today that helps save our wildlife.