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How we get there

The biggest thing that we can do to try to lower our impact on species extinction rates is to Protect Spaces where threatened animals live. In addition to protecting spaces in general, we can use endangered species legislation to protect threatened species. In addition, groups can work to conserve a specific species to prevent it from going extinct. We also need to work to discover more about the current state of animal species and learn what we can do to try to prevent doing more harm to them.
Captive breeding can be used if an animal is no longer viable in the wild

Endangered Species Protection

The United States Endangered Species Act of 1973 gives the Secretary of the Interior the responsibility for determining whether to place an animal or plant on the Federal list of endangered and threatened species. This responsibility has been delegated to the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Plants or animals can end up on the list if their existence is being threatened because of habitat destruction, reductions in range, over hunting or capturing, or any number of other causes.

A listed species receives protection from any harm Federal activities may cause, the Fish and Wildlife Service must implement a plan for recovery, the Federal government gains the ability to acquire important habitat, and it allows Federal aid to go to state conservation efforts. It makes it illegal to take, import, export, or transport internationally or interstate any listed animals (except by permit for certain conservation purposes). It is also illegal to possess, sell, or transport any listed species. Listing also raises awareness about the specie's state, encouraging conservation efforts by other agencies, independent organizations, and individuals.


Conservation of particular species can be very effective at minimizing damage to an ecosystem by trying to preserve a key species. This can involve working in the natural space where the animal is found to try to conserve it, by moving wild-born animals to new areas if their habitat is being destroyed, or by trying to maintain a species through captive breeding and reintroductions.

While not an idea situation, captive breeding can be used if an animal is no longer viable in the wild. Zoos, aquariums, and wildlife preserves can hold individuals of these animals and try to breed them with the eventual goal of reintroductions. Groups such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) manage the breeding pairs to ensure genetic diversity. Once habitats have been established, the species can be reintroduced to the wild. There have been a number of success stories with these sorts of programs, but they are a last line of defense against extinction. You can read more about this in the Repairing Damage section.

More General Action

While there is a lot we can do to try to manage specific species, there are also a lot of actions we can take to protect animals in a general way. As mentioned, the one of biggest things is having protected spaces where the animals are safe from harm. It is also important to have these protected spaces be connected to allow for animal movement. We need to Protect Plants, which are at the base of all food webs animals rely on.

We can also work harder to take ecosystem effects into account when developing a natural area. For example, wind turbines were criticized by many environmental groups for the problems they had interrupting bird migration routes until developers began working with biologists to find ways to minimize the impact of this otherwise beneficial technology. An even more general action we need to take is to do everything we can to minimize Climate Change. Reducing climate change is the biggest way to help protect animals through everyday decisions.

And finally, we need to work to learn more about animals and the things endangering them as well as monitor the status of key species. The first part is likely to be handled by professionals, but the latter part is something anyone can get involved in by becoming a Citizen Scientist. There are a number of programs that rely on individuals to keep track or watch for a particular set of animals and report back to some institution.

Fish and Wildlife Service - ESA
Homepage of the Endangered Species Act
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Fish and Wildlife Service - ESA
Homepage of the Endangered Species Act
Click now to view
AZA - Conservation Programs
Link to a variety of AZA conservation programs
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