Endangered Species Day this year is Friday, May 18th. Why do we have a day dedicated to endangered species? Simply put, we depend on the survival of endangered species. All species are a part of a complex web of ecosystems. These ecosystems provide food, water, shelter, medicines, water filtration, air purification, and nutrient cycling–important services we can’t survive without. Losing just one species to extinction can cause a ripple effect within an ecosystem, and this can have serious consequences to our well-being.
Fortunately, the United States has an outstanding endangered species program with strong, well-implemented laws. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was introduced in 1973. The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover endangered species, and to preserve their habitats. More than 1,300 species of plants and animals are currently listed as either threatened or endangered in the United States.
While extinction is still a real threat for many species, there is hope. Conservation actions carried out under the ESA have successfully prevented extinction for 99% of the species that are listed as endangered or threatened. Endangered Species Day is a great opportunity to recognize the difference we have made and celebrate our successes.
The Bald Eagle: America’s Great Success Story
One of our greatest endangered species success stories is the bald eagle. It’s estimated that in the early 18th century, the bald eagle population in the US was 300,000 – 500,000. However, due to a variety of factors including the use of the pesticide DDT, habitat destruction, and legal and illegal shooting, by the 1950s there were only 412 nesting pairs in all of the 48 contiguous states. But the introduction of the ESA and the following conservation efforts led to the bald eagle’s recovery. In 1995 the bald eagle was reclassified from “Endangered” to “Threatened”. The population continued to grow, and in 2007 it was de-listed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Today, Florida itself is home to an estimated 1,500 bald eagle nesting pairs.
What You Can Do
Other species in Florida still need our help. Animals such as the Florida snail kite, the gopher tortoise, and the Florida panther are all listed as federally endangered. In total, there are 133 animal species and over 550 plant species that are endangered or threatened in Florida. For a complete list of endangered and threatened species in Florida visit: www.myfwc.com.
There are many small actions you can take to make a difference.
Slow down. Wildlife is often killed when crossing roads. Slow down when driving to protect species such as the Florida panther. If you boat, you can slow down your boat to help protect marine and freshwater animals.
Learn more. Watch a documentary or read a book about an endangered species.
Provide habitat. Use native plants in your landscape to provide habitat for wildlife. Create a pollinator garden to attract and protect pollinators.
Choose Native. Invasive species crowd out native plants and animals. Stick with native plants in your garden and never release nonnative animals into the wild. To learn more about nonnative and invasive species visit: www.myfwc.com.