Every year, thousands of animal species become extinct. Animals that once roamed the Earth in abundance are permanently disappearing from our planet at a heart-stopping pace. Scientists estimate that the current rate of extinction is 1,000 times greater than it would normally be because of one factor: humans.

What’s going wrong?

We are consuming Earth’s natural resources faster than they can be replenished. We destroy animals’ habitats, their food, water and air — as well as the animals themselves — at an unsustainable rate. As more birds’ nests are cleared to build skyscrapers, rivers are drained for parking lots and elephants are slaughtered to make trinkets, the number and diversity of animals contracts.

Trafficking heightens the threat to our wildlife. The illicit trade of animals and their body parts on the black market is growing. Rising demand for products derived from elephantsrhinos and tigers, and from other iconic land animals threatens not only these species and the peace, health and prosperity of the people who live near them. Wildlife trafficking reduces the security of citizens and the profits of legitimate businesses.

Why we should care

When an animal species goes extinct, the irreplaceable animals are only part of the loss. Although we may consider the animal world to be separate from our own, our lives and theirs are intertwined, connected by a million threads. Plants, animals, people and the environment together constitute a biological community — an ecosystem — in which each part depends on the other for survival. When one part of the community is thrown off-balance or eliminated, the entire system suffers.

Everyone can help

Even though humans are wildlife’s greatest threat, we are also its only hope. All over the world individuals and small groups, as well as large organizations, corporations and governments, are doing their part to ensure a more secure future for our wildlife — and for us. From curbing demand for animal byproducts, establishing and enforcing laws against illegal trafficking, and volunteering with conservation organizations that help protect endangered species, conservation heroes combat the threats facing Earth’s animals.

No act of conservation is too small. We may not be able to bring back the species we have already lost, but many others on the brink of extinction need our immediate attention and action. Don’t be part of the problem. Be the solution: Respect and protect Earth’s wildlife.

Learn more:

  • From fish to coral to giraffes, human activity takes a heavy toll.
  • See how wildlife trafficking supports terrorism in Last Days, a video about the illegal ivory trade.