Animal awareness (photo: John McCarten/NYC Council)
May 19 marks Endangered Species Day, a time when people around the world focus on animals who are in grave danger of becoming extinct or soon endangered.
This year is especially poignant, as it also marks the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act — landmark legislation conserving wildlife, fish, and plants, as well as habitats.
Even New York City is home to two species of wildlife that are considered endangered or vulnerable. The impossibly cute and endangered piping plover bird, with its round body, tiny size, and charming features, has recently seen a resurgence on New York City beaches thanks to the efforts of wildlife conservationists and concerned citizen volunteers. Horseshoe crabs are a familiar sight along the beaches of Brooklyn, but many do not know that these crustaceans are considered vulnerable on the IUCN List of Threatened Species. Both of these species face pressures from habitat loss and destruction, as well as human disturbance.
I hope you will find inspiration to take action during this day, celebratory month, and beyond — because the stakes have never been higher and consequences more dire, for wildlife and for humans, too.
Our leading scientists say we are at a crossroads, facing potential catastrophic damage to ecosystems with loss of biodiversity around the globe reaching crisis levels, according to this year’s report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Animal populations have declined by nearly 70% in the last 50 years due to the compounding effects of human activity, including overhunting and exploitation of animals, habitat destruction, and environmental pollution.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres captured the situation well when he said, “humanity has become a weapon of mass extinction” during opening remarks for the most recent global biodiversity summit.
The good news is we still have time to choose protection over destruction; to shepherd in a new era of respect for all animals as we share the same destiny driven by human actions.
As the New York state director for the nonprofits Animal Wellness Action and Center for a Humane Economy, and a resident of Brooklyn, I am part of several current campaigns and hope one or more may be of interest, because there is no better time to step up and be a part of promoting the health of animal lives. There is so much needless cruelty done to animals that is harming not just our human souls, but the web of life that defines the planet as a whole. If we heal the animals, we heal the Earth.
Get the Lead Out of Our Wildlife
Nearly half of our bald and golden eagles are suffering and many dying just this past winter from toxic levels of lead — one of the most dangerous pollutants causing adverse effects on wildlife today and potentially harming population growth and leading to extinction of sensitive species. You can help. Learn about the dangers of lead ammunition and fishing tackle left in the environment and food chain.
Protect Apex Predators to Boost Biodiversity
Science tells us quite clearly that our top predators — wolves, mountain lions, and bears — serve key ecological roles in safeguarding biodiversity. According to one study in Mammal Review, “Large, terrestrial carnivores are key regulators exerting strong and irreplaceable effects on biological community assemblages, and their absence can lead to fundamentally downgraded ecosystems.” Instead of wiping them out, as humans have done throughout history, we need to respect and protect them. Learn more about how to help.
Mass Killing is Not Conservation
Independent scientists and academics are rightfully concerned that the largest massacre of land mammals on the planet today — the inhumane slaughter of kangaroos in the wild — is putting wildlife at risk. My organization has been wildly successful at convincing two of the leading three sport shoe manufacturers — Nike and Puma — to stop sourcing kangaroos as material to make soccer cleats. Tell Adidas that it too must stop supporting the largest massacre of land mammals on the planet today.
Factory Farm Pollution Touches Us All
Besides being cruel, industrialized factory farming has caused irreparable harm to healthy ecosystems and wildlife by polluting our air, water, and land. You can take part in meaningful reform by telling your Congressional representatives that they can stop the inhumane confinement of pigs in gestation stalls. And help to end the hyperproduction of dairy cows by telling your legislators to provide a simple choice of soy in our nation’s public school cafeterias.
All New Yorkers can feel good about their experiences and engagement during this year’s Endangered Species Day and beyond.
Susan Stork is New York State Director of Animal Wellness Action. On Twitter @awaction_news.