People are fascinated by wildlife, but are the enemy of wildlife too. National Wildlife Day is observed on September 4 in order to spread awareness of the human impact on wildlife and the need to protect it. The day was founded in 2006 in memory of Steve Irwin, nicknamed the Crocodile Hunter and well known Australian wildlife conservationist. Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems including deserts, forests, rainforests, plains, grasslands, and other areas, even the most developed urban areas, but much of it is rapidly disappearing.
It is estimated that approximately two thirds of the animal life that once inhabited the earth is extinct, some from natural causes and some from a combination of natural and human, but there is no denying the impact of human activity on the survival of the planet’s wildlife. The news from the last 50 years is grim. Since 1970, there has been a 60% decline in the populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians, most of that related to human activity. As the human population explodes, we take up more space for our cities, polluting or destroying natural habitats that get in the way. This rapid growth of the human population has led to an accelerated decline of the wildlife population. Illegal hunting and killing of animals for sport or profit takes another toll. Then of course, there is climate change resulting in warming waters, temperature increases, and changes in precipitation. These changes can all impact wildlife by affecting their food supply, their reproductive timing, hibernation, and temperature tolerance among other things.
In response to this alarming decline in the wildlife population, the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 under President Nixon. Its purpose was two-fold: to protect species and their ecosystems and to recover species to the point where laws are not needed for them to survive. Organizations worldwide, like the Worldwide Conservation Society, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Wildlife Conservation Network, have joined in the effort to save our wildlife but it is a complex undertaking requiring money, dedication, and science. While the main work is left to the large organizations, there are some things the average person can do to help with the effort. Some of these include:
- “Adopting” a wild animal through a conservation organization, thus helping to fund it.
- Educate yourself by visiting zoos, aquariums, wildlife refuges, and national parks which are all home to wild animals.
- Donate to conservation organizations if you can afford to; all these programs take large amounts of money.
- Buy responsibly, avoiding products made from endangered animals.
- Keep the earth clean and protect animals by recycling, picking up trash, and volunteering to clean areas like beaches and parks.
Locally, you can celebrate the day by visiting the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari or visit a similar wildlife refuge in your area. There are actually 567 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts around the country, use this interactive map to see if there is one in your backyard.
For more information on wildlife conservation, visit these links:
Book from the library:
The Soul of the Rhino: A Nepali Adventure with Kings and Elephant Drivers, Billionaires, and Bureaucrats, Shamans and Scientists, and the Indian Rhinoceros – QL31.M63 A3 2008
“A spirited yet humble account of one man’s scientific career and personal journey to save the endangered rhinoceros in his native Nepal… Filled with candor and bittersweet humor, Mishra recreates his journey on behalf of the rhino, an ugly yet enchanting, terrifying yet delicate creature.”