Exploring Endangered Species

Exploring Endangered Species

Momo Sutton, Reporter

Did you know that the Earth is host to more than one trillion species? While humans may preside dominantly above all other others, it is imperative that we not forget that we need to share our planet. In fact, of these trillion species, 41,415 species are endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Redlist. 

An endangered species is a species of animal or plant that is seriously at risk of extinction, and basically disappearing off the face of the Earth. There are numerous reasons as to why these animals could be endangered, however, many of them share a common foe. Humans. This column will explore different endangered species, and the dangers that they face.

You may be wondering as to why this is important, and how this relates to you. Well, not only do these living beings share the basic right to live, but they are also a part of an intricate ecosystem designed by nature to uphold balance. Human activity, such as deforestation, can uproot these delicate situations, thus throwing the entire ecosystem into chaos. Even though it may not seem major, these ripples eventually affect us, and our environment.

One endangered subspecies is the Florida panther. Also known as the Puma concolor coryi, these animals are native to the southern parts of Florida. While they used to live in abundance, today there are 100 that reside in the wild. It all started in 1832 when a bounty on panthers was created, and the species was nearly hunted to extinction in the mid-1950’s. The entire population of the Florida panthers never made a full recovery, and now face an entire new set of threats. These include habitat reduction, inbreeding, and mortalities from collisions with automobiles. Inbreeding itself resulted in the loss of a natural gene that occurred between the Florida panther and other species of panthers through breeding. This gene helped to maintain genetic health and minimized inbreeding in general.

However, in recent history, the Florida panther became isolated to other species because of habitat loss. With the loss of this gene, it was feared that the species would inevitably be extinct. So, in 1995, the genetic restoration program began, but by this time the population of panthers had dwindled to only 20-30 individuals in the wild. In 1995, eight female Texas panthers from the program were released in South Florida. By 2007, the Florida panther population had responded by tripling to about 100 animals. Ultimately, the program was successful in reintroducing the gene.

Due to the fact that many species like the Florida panther were falling victim to urban sprawl, the Florida Everglades was created to combat these dangers. “The panther is going to help us save Florida… People understand panthers need to have big areas to live in and if we develop these areas and lose them, we’re going to lose the panther too…” says Carey Lightsey, a 6th generation Florida Rancher. These panthers need all the help they can get if future generations want to see them.

Knowledge is power, so look no farther than this column if you want to know more about endangered species.