From a young age, we are all taught about the world around us; the animals, the plants and their ecosystems. We have discovered over 7.5 million different animal species and over 11 million plant species. We, as humans are part of this world and coexist with these diverse living organisms, they are everywhere in our lives. In our childhood storybooks and our exotic holidays, we get just a small glimpse of the biodiversity in the world around us. From the beautiful, majestic Snow Leopards of the highest peaks in Mongolia and Russia, to the powerful Humpback whales of the great Pacific to the Green woodpeckers in our very own gardens. Nature is everywhere, continuing to surprise and amaze us at every turn. However, the world is changing rapidly. These magnificent creatures we are so inspired by are in grave danger; with the extinction rate being the highest since the loss of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We are losing biodiversity at a faster pace than we could ever have imagined.
Some of our most treasured species are heading toward extinction, yet, what are we really doing to stop it? What can you do personally? Although no one is claiming to have all the answers there are many organisations working hard to reduce biodiversity loss, pollution and deforestation. The field of species conservation is the practice of protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats; with the overall goal being to ensure nature will be around for future generations. Also to enjoy and recognise the importance of wildlife and wilderness for humans and other species alike. One of the leading organisations in the field is the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
After spending a week at the IUCN headquarters, in Gland, I learnt a bit more about what they are actively doing to help. The IUCN has many different specialist branches, varying from marine life to deforestation. The branch focusing on endangered species is a foundation called Save Our Species (SOS), coordinated by Alessandro Baldalotti. SOS has one clear objective, to ensure long-term survival of threatened species by protecting their habitat and the people who depend on them. The structure of the foundation is to channel funds from donors to existing frontline conservation actors, working to protect some of the world’s most threatened species from extinction. They strategically identify and select the best frontline conservation projects for funding. This aims to educate and communicate to the global community how the projects are advancing, while ensuring grantees achieve their stated objectives and introducing people across the public and private sector to the idea of conservation. SOS participates in the running of 119 different initiatives all around the globe, ranging from tigers in Asia to lemurs in Madagascar.
The SOS foundation is helping in the fight against species extinction alongside the so many other organisations in this field. The threats to our wildlife include illegal poaching, deforestation, oil drilling, plastic pollution and the huge scale problem of climate change. Yes, this does all sound extremely depressing making you want to completely ignore it as you cannot go out into the field and fight it hands on. However, this is not a problem you can ignore and push to the side, there are ways to help.
Even the smallest change will make a difference. Reducing single use plastic ; saying ‘No!’ when you’re offered a throw away plastic bag, a straw or a spoon. The simple act of recycling on a daily basis will change a lot, as will using less paper. Also, switch the lights off when they’re not needed and eat less meat. We are not asking you to completely change your lifestyle but these are all small and easy things to do which will have a big impact.
For those of you who had never heard of the IUCN or Save Our Species, awareness plays a key part. If people don’t know, how can they help? We encourage you to raise awareness yourselves, tell your friends, tell your family, the more people who know, the more people can change their habits which affect wildlife. Even if you’re not a conservation fanatic, we all have a responsibility to help. There are 19,817 species on the IUCN red list, classified as threatened with extinction. Once these species are gone there is no bringing them back. We only have one planet, let’s not waste it.