In studying man and the environment, it is easy to think that humans have caused all the extinctions of animals in the world so far. In fact most extinctions happened millions of years before humans even lived on Earth. We know from the fossil record that thousands of prehistoric species of animals and plants have lived on Earth and over time went extinct, including all the dinosaurs. Scientists studying the fossil record have found that there were five big mass extinctions prehistorically where whole orders of animals died out.
A smaller, but important extinction happened about 14,000 years ago, called the end-Pleistocene extinctions. This was where a lot of large animals went extinct in a short period of time, many of them right here in North America. This was when North American animals like the woolly mammoth, mastodon, ground sloth, horse, camel, and lion disappeared.
Scientists have many theories about what happened to cause the end-Pleistocene extinctions. Climate change could have been one reason, because during that time there was a dramatic change in the Earth’s climate as world temperature rose at the end of the last ice age. Another reason could have been that early man had finally migrated to reach North America and started hunting. If humans affected certain important keystone species by over hunting, it could have triggered many other extinctions as well.
Today, we are aware of the importance of protecting endangered species and their habitats. It may be too late for many species that have gone extinct throughout the world in recent times because of the actions of humans, like the passenger pigeon, stellar sea cow, dodo, moa and quagga – all of which have disappeared in the last 400 years. Now many very endangered animals are being watched and taken care of in the hopes of their return to safe numbers. Hopefully, knowing the importance of healthy habitats and learning from the experiences with keystone species, we can keep any more animals from going extinct by the careless actions of humans. We can be part of the solution.
There are many animals that are close to extinction from habitat loss. The giant panda, tiger, snow leopard, and mountain gorilla are among them. What can be done to save them from extinction?
There are also many ways you and your family can help a little bit to stop endangered animals from going extinct. If everyone helped a little, it might add up to a big difference.
The Cousteau Society
870 Greenbriar Circle, Suite 402
Chesapeake, VA 23320
Educates the public about natural ecosystems.
3 Clock Tower Place, Suite 100, Box 75
Maynard, MA 01754
Promotes the conservation of our natural resources and cultural heritage through research, education, and conservation.
Environmental Defense Fund
1875 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20009
Works to protect clean air, water, and human health. Educates people on endangered species, rainforests, and recycling.
Friends of the Earth
1025 Vermont Ave., NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20005
To defend the environment and champion a healthy and just world.
1436 U St. NW
Washington, DC 20009
Works to preserve the earth and the life it supports. It has almost 2 million supporters.
Keep American Beautiful, Inc.
1010 Washington Boulevard
Stamford, CT 06901
To engage individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments.
National Audubon Society
New York, NY 10003
Tells people how to use wildlife, land, water, and other natural resources intelligently.
The National Environmental Trust
1200 18th Street, N.W., Fifth Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036
Informs citizens about environmental problems such as global warming, ocean conservation, energy, and clean air.
National Wildlife Federation
8925 Leesburg Pike
Vienna, VA 22184
Works to protect nature and wildlife.
Natural Resources Defense Council
40 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
An influential lobbying and litigating group on environmental issues.
The Nature Conservancy
4245 North Fairfax Drive, Suite 100
Arlington, VA 22203-1606
Works to preserve plants and animals by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.
65 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10012
Works to save tropical rain forests worldwide.
The Sierra Club
85 Second Street, Second Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105-3441
Works to preserve national parks and wilderness areas.
Trees for Life
3006 W. St. Louis
Wichita, KS 67203
Helps people in the developing countries plant and care for food-bearing trees.
World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
Dedicated to protecting the world's wildlife and wildlands.
Testing and Assessment
Assess content comprehension about Topics about Endangered Species with the Mutiple Choice Test.
Assess student knowledge of which animals are endangered with the Endangered Animal Labeling Page.
Use the Endangered Animal Coloring Page as a model to reinforce this knowledge.