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Understanding the difference between endangered and threatened species

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: April 15, 2023

The world’s wildlife is under threat. As humans continue to expand their activities and impact the natural environment, more and more species are becoming endangered or threatened. It’s important to understand the difference between these two terms and why they matter for the survival of our planet’s biodiversity.

Endangered Species

When a species is endangered, it means that it’s at risk of becoming extinct. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines an endangered species as one that has a very high risk of extinction in the wild. There are many different factors that can cause a species to become endangered. Some of the most common causes include habitat loss, poaching, climate change, and disease.

Habitat loss is perhaps the biggest threat to wildlife around the world. As humans continue to build cities, roads, and other infrastructure, they destroy natural habitats that are home to countless species. Poaching, or the illegal hunting of animals, is another major threat. Many animals are hunted for their fur, horns, tusks, or other body parts, which are then sold on the black market. Climate change is also a significant factor in the decline of many species. As the planet warms, animals and plants must adapt to changing conditions, and many are unable to keep up. Finally, disease can wipe out entire populations of animals, especially when they’re already struggling due to other factors.

Some examples of endangered species include the giant panda, the black rhinoceros, and the Siberian tiger. These animals are all threatened by habitat loss, poaching, and other factors, and their populations have dwindled to dangerously low levels. If we don’t take action to protect them, they could disappear from the wild forever.

Threatened Species

A threatened species is one that’s likely to become endangered if its current situation doesn’t improve. The IUCN defines a threatened species as one that’s at risk of becoming endangered in the near future. Like endangered species, threatened species face many different threats. However, the severity of those threats may be less than that faced by endangered species.

Some examples of threatened species include the African elephant, the polar bear, and the leatherback sea turtle. These animals are all under threat due to human activities such as overfishing, pollution, and habitat destruction. While their populations are still relatively stable, they could become endangered if we don’t take action to address the problems that are putting them at risk.

Differences Between Endangered and Threatened Species

While endangered and threatened species share many similarities, there are also important differences between the two categories. One key difference is the legal protections afforded to each. Endangered species are given more protection under the law than threatened species. For example, it’s illegal to hunt, capture, or trade endangered species, while threatened species may have some limited protections but are not typically afforded the same level of protection.

Another difference is the conservation strategies used for each. Endangered species are often the focus of more intense conservation efforts, such as captive breeding and reintroduction programs. These programs aim to increase the number of individuals in a population and restore the species to its former range. Threatened species may also be the focus of conservation efforts, but these efforts may be more focused on addressing the underlying threats to the species, such as reducing pollution or protecting critical habitat.

Volunteering with GVI for Wildlife Conservation

Volunteering with wildlife conservation organisations like GVI can be a great way to learn more about endangered species and how we can protect them. GVI offers a range of wildlife conservation programs around the world, giving volunteers the opportunity to work alongside experienced conservationists and contribute to important research and conservation efforts.

For example, GVI’s programs in South Africa allow volunteers to work with endangered species such as the African lion, African elephant, and rhinoceros. Volunteers can assist with research and monitoring efforts, as well as help to protect these animals from poaching and other threats. Similarly, GVI’s programs in Costa Rica focus on sea turtle conservation, where volunteers can help to protect nesting sites and release hatchlings into the ocean.

Volunteering with GVI not only provides a hands-on learning experience, but it also allows individuals to make a meaningful contribution to wildlife conservation efforts. Through these programs, volunteers can gain a deeper understanding of the threats facing endangered species and the conservation strategies being used to protect them. They can also learn about the importance of sustainable development and how we can balance human needs with the needs of wildlife and the natural environment.

In conclusion, volunteering with wildlife conservation organisations like GVI can be a powerful way to learn about endangered species and contribute to their protection. By getting involved in these programs, individuals can make a real difference in the world of wildlife conservation, and help to ensure a brighter future for our planet’s biodiversity.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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