1. Definition and Effects

1.1 Definitions

Endangered Species [en·dan·gered spe·cies] noun; are present species that are at risk of extinction because of human activity, changes in climate, or changes in predator and prey ratios. These are just a few reasons for the extinction of many creatures. Their numbers are so few, or are declining so quickly, that the animal, plant, or other organism may soon become extinct. Endangered species are sometimes protected under national or international law. When officially designated by a government, a group such as WWF (World Wildlife Fund) will intervene with the species habitat, and look for resolutions in which to hopefully raise the population.

Ecosystem [ec·o·sys·tem] noun; a localized group of interdependent organisms together with the environment that they inhabit and depend on

Breed [breed] noun; a strain of an animal with identifiable characteristics that distinguish it from other members of its species

Food Chain [food chain] noun; a hierarchy of different living things, each of which feeds on the one below

Extinct [ex·tinct] adjective; having no members of the species in existence

Conservation [con·ser·va·tion] noun; the preservation, management, and care of natural and cultural resources

Deforestation [de·for·es·ta·tion] noun; is the removal of trees from forested areas, changing it into non-forested areas

Poacher [poach·er] noun; somebody who hunts or fishes illegally, usually while trespassing

Logger [log·ger] noun; a person or company in the business of harvesting trees for wood

1.2 The Effects

The effects of an endangered species can have catastrophic effects on an ecosystem. For Example, the British bumblebee is slowly dying out, and as a result we are already seeing the effects. In the last 50 years, the bumblebee population in the UK alone has already seen the loss of 3 conspicuous breeds and now a further nine are on the critical endangered list. Bumblebees are major pollinators of most wild flowers and if they were to disappear, the plants would produce fewer seeds and may even vanish themselves, which would in turn cause a whole species to die out. This is also the same case in Canada, in the Niagara region where 90% of commercial colonies were lost. This has prompted a huge mystery and Ontario beekeepers have now started to question experts at the University of Guelph to investigate. The move comes amid the disappearance of million of bees in the US, hence the name "Colony Collapse Disorder". The devastation is thought to have stretched from as far as the West region to central Niagara. As some of the Niagara region are fruit growers, they are worried in the weeks leading up to May pollination period. The bee industry in Canada alone, is worth 1 billion dollars.


1.2.1 The Endangerment of Polar Bears


Scattered throughout the northern part of Canada, the polar bear is a prestige figure of our nation. It is surrounded by nothing but ice and water, and hunts and lives in the Arctic. Being a strong swimmer and a lone predator in the region, it seems strange that this animal is one of hundreds of endangered species in Canada. However, polar bears, and many other Arctic mammals are threatened by the vast and rapid spread of greenhouse gases and chemicals in the air. These chemicals and gases disrupt the habitat of many Arctic mammals-seals, walrus’, penguins-but most notably, polar bears. According to NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, which have monitored the ice situation in the Arctic since 1978, the Arctic ice shelf has melted for the fourth straight year its smallest size of the century, providing less room for polar bears to operate their daily lives, thus, endangering them. Also, many polar bears can be found in the northern regions of the Hudson Bay. However, according to Canadian Wildlife Services, the number of polar bears has been declining because of rapid ice melting, forcing them to either swim long distances to find another piece of ice, or retreat further inland. If polar bears are forced to swim large distances in order to maintain survival, there is a high possibility of them drowning while on the voyage. Furthermore, if polar bears are forced to retreat inland, then places of hibernation become rare. With the rapid melting of the Arctic ice, polar bears have to endure longer Arctic summers, which means longer ice-free periods. Without the ice to stabilize themselves, polar bears are thrown off their regular routines, causing them to lose crucial fat reserves and causing female bears to lose their ability to produce milk, both affecting the cycle of reproduction. Evidence of this can be found in the fact that scientists have already seen a 15% decrease in birth rates. However, what should be stressed here is the fact that polar bears are not "considered" endangered animals yet because they are not covered in the Species At Risk Act because their population is still considered "high" enough to be exempt from this act. Regardless, the possibility of the extinction of polar bears is present, and if something is not done to end the rapid deaths of polar bears, we will soon see them under the Species At Risk Act, and maybe even extinct. The effects of the extinction of polar bears or even the endangerment of them could be devastating to Canada and its identity, but would prove to the world that even a strong and noble animals like the polar bear could not withstand the evils we are doing to the environment.

1.3 Positive and Negative Effects of Endangered Species

food_chain.jpgThere seems to be more negative aspects than positives towards the inflation of endangered species. A positive effect of a species being endangered, is that certain predators are no longer a threat to humans. Also, because a species population has dropped, it means there is more food and shelter for the other creatures to obtain. There are many negatives points abaft a species becoming endangered. These can include a chain of consecutive results, in which species followed by species will die out. For example, if osprey become endangered, the fish they eat, pike, would have less predators to eat them, thus their population would increase greatly. When this happens, the perch population would be in danger because of the increase amount of predators (the pike). This would continue onto other species involved in the food chain, disrupting the natural flow of beings. If this happens, species such as the perch might die out from over hunting by the pike, and so on.

1.4 The History Behind Endangered Animals

In the past, the Western civilization believed that mankind had dominion over every living thing, but as humans became more aware of their surroundings and learned the different effects (positive or negative) of animals, they began to understand the importance of the animal kingdom and the need to preserve these beasts that God had given us. As humans, we always thought that the uses of animals was solely for the purpose of farming, hunting, or exploited in any way we choose. Since the human population seemed so small in comparison to that of the animal kingdom, it was believed that there was no possible way to annihilate an entire species. Ever since the beginning of time, humans have hunted to feed themselves. As time passed, humans learned to grow crops. As this new trend began to take off, humans began killing to protect their crops from predators, as it was likely that a human would lose his crops to the hands of a hungry animal. To add to the killing, animals began to lose their habitat to humans for agricultural and expansion purposes. As their habitats began to deplete, so did the population of the animals within the area. It was not until approximately a hundred and fifty years ago that people began to notice the dwindling numbers of certain species. Although these people noticed this decreased, they did not heed the warning signs and thus began the road to animals becoming endangered, and ultimately extinct. Recently, we have learned the disheartening fact that we can annihilate not only an entire species, but multiple entireties of species. We learned that nature is not limitless, and that if we do not control how we treat them, one day we will lose these creatures. This is when the idea of conservation began.

1.4.1 Canada

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  • Since then, this issue has raised questions from many political parties.
  • Provincial governments have argued that wildlife is under their jurisdiction, while many environmental groups have pressured the government into being more aggressive towards saving endangered species. The corporate world has expressed a concern about the cost of protecting the endangered species. Meanwhile, scientists have stressed that it is through science, not politics, that we determine which species to protect.
  • All of this has culminated into a more conscious effort to protect endangered species.
  • Many of these aspects can be traced back into Canadian history. For example, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada was formed as a result of heavy activism by reluctant environmentalists, scientists and others who saw the list of endangered species growing and believed that it was important for one single list of endangered species to be developed.
  • However, for one to truly understand why endangered species have become a political issue, one must look at the following events as trends throughout Canadian history:
  • Expanding and evolving industries that exploit and consume resources with a huge impact on wildlife.
  • Increased scientific study on the environment, and the effects of these industries on the environment. This leads to a greater understanding of the ecology of the endangered species.
  • An ever-increasing amount of groups, agencies and individuals participating in debates and initiatives, causing some political unrest.
  • The emergence of new environmental values among Canadians.
  • The growing public awareness is a result of the increased scientific spotlight on this issue.

1.4.2 United Kingdom

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  • Since then, the Uk has set up wildlife trusts, such as the Wetland Centre, which works all over the UK, educating the public about these endangered species.
  • Many parks, otherwise known as National Parks, have been set up by the goverment across the whole of the UK. Currently, there are 14 recognised parks. Not only is this a place where peace, it is also home to many endangered species. As this is a tourist attraction, it allows them to educate them about endangered species. This bird to the right is a Curlew, and is part of a plan in the Northumberland National Park to bring them back to the not endangered list.

2. Catholic Perspective

2.1 The Catechism of the Catholic Church

2416 Animals are God's creatures. He surrounds them with his providential care. By their mere existence they bless him and give him glory. Thus men owe them kindness. We should recall the gentleness with which saints like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals.

From number 2416 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are callled to treat animals gently, and in a manner in which St. Franics of Assisi or St. Philip Neri treated animals. Therefore, to hunt animals into extinction (as some have been) is considered wrong by the Church. God intended for us to treat animals they way we treat other human beings, with respect. He did not intend for us to hunt them or hurt them in anyway. By their existence, animals show the complexity of God's power to create...

2.2 Bible

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

God said, “See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1.26-31)

In the bible, God speaks of dominion that humans have over animals. This dominion we have refers to the fact that we can use them for food, clothing, etc. We are entitled to all this, but we must be able to use them in moderation. We cannot abuse this right that God has given us by over-killing or over-hunting for personal greed. The Hebrew word radah which is translated to dominion in English means to rule over so that right order can be achieved. God invites us to take care of the animals, not to destroy them.

2.3 From the Bishop

The church’s response to the ecological crisis is to reflect on the Scriptures and Tradition. Bishops in Alberta have interpreted Genesis 1.26-31:

…Man’s Lordship is not absolute, but mini8sterial: it is a real reflection of the unique and infinite Lordship of God…It is not the mission of an absolute and uncensurable master, but of a minister of the Kingdom of God, called to continue the work of the Creator, a work of life and peace. His responsibility, defined in the Book of Wisdom, is to govern “the world in holiness and justice” (Wisdom 9.3)

This dominion is not a power to exploit or use wantonly. Rather it is a stewardship, ca caring cooperation in creation. Humans are called to exercise dominion over the earth, a dominion of service, wisdom and love.


3. International Agreements Made

The United Kingdom as well as Canada are part of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.

3.1 The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna

external image cites-greenlogo.gifWildlife has been traded since the beginning of time, and this trading aspect has provided trappers and traders with more income, and has given them more of a reason to continue hunting and for the most part, killing animals. The buyers use parts of animals- teeth, bones, tusks, skin- for fashion, utensils, the right to boast and even keep the animal alive and use it for a pet. However, unlike in previous decades where society traded animals frequently, today's society has kept a closer watch over our endangered species, and that can be seen through the creation of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was drafted and initially signed in 1973 in Washington. It entered into the force in 1975. It is a signed agreement between numerous governments that controls the trading of wildlife to make sure there is no over-trading of certain species, which may threaten their survival. All import and export of wildlife must be authorized by CITES through a licensing system. Treaties like CITES must be created to maintain order in the wildlife kingdom. CITES main decision-making meeting takes place once every two to three years, and is known as the Conference of the Parties. However, while only the debates on more popular animals and plants get media coverage, CITES works with more animals than are covered by the media. For example, 15 species of tropical timber are listed, and countless amounts of endangered flowers and birds have found their way into CITES's records. Being as significant as it is, CITES has the potential to change government platforms, encouraging them to adopt new preservation and trading policies. Although it is impossible to measure the amount of illegal trade of endangered species in Canada, the formation of CITES has gone a long way in establising legal trade of animals in Canada. For example, in 1996, Canada had made 4 141 inspections, 209 investigations, 12 prosecutions, and 4 convictions of traders and trappers who were thought to have, or did illegally trade endangered animals. Today, the treaty has 171 parties.

The convention is divided into three groups; Appendix I, Appendix II, and Appendix III.

3.1.1 Appendix I

Appendix I are species in risk of extinction, for which all commercial trade has prohibited.external image 78_web.jpg

These include species such as:
  • All beaked whales
  • All great whales
  • 3 marine dolphin species
  • 6 fur seals
  • 2 porpoise species

3.1.2 Appendix II

Appendix II are species not necessarily threatened by extinction, but may not become so if trade is strictly regulated. These include species that are in international trade and vulnerable to over exploitation.
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These include species such as:
  • All dolphins not listed in appendix I
  • All giant clam species
  • Great white sharks
  • Whale sharks
  • Seahorses

3.1.3 Appendix III

A country may unilaterally list in Appendix III any species which is subject to regulation within its jurisdiction for which the cooperation of other Parties is needed.

3.2 Concerns about CITES

There are small concerns surrounding CITES. One of them is the philosophy, which focuses on protecting the species itself, but not the environment that they live in. It pursuits the challenge of stopping the unstable use of animals, instead of promoting the stable use of animals. They also do not enforce their treaty enough, as their funding does not allow them to hire more ground enforcement.

3.3 The Convention on Biological Diversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity was signed in 1992 at the Rio Summit. This convention was formed based on the urgency of preventing the extinction of thousands of plants and animals, known and still unknown to the world. To act upon this, many groups and activists began advocating the need for a convention that would concentrate on protecting endangered and threatened species. The idea would be that this convention would answer questions and settle debates- the creation of more national and provincial parks, the protection of the rights of farmers, and access to genetic resources that could be used for sustainable development.
The CBD has three main objectives that are targets to be achieved:

1) The conservation of every living thing- animals, plants, as well as their habitats and ecosystems that they live off of. The most desirable way to conserve the biological diversity of our planet is through the creation of more national and provincial parks.
2) The balanced use of the environment through progams focusing on both economic development and protection of every living being.
3) The sharing of the benefits that come from the use of genetic resources. This goal is intended for developed countries to compensate biologically rich developing countries for the use of their genetic resources.

4. Solutions and Ways to Help the Problem

4.1 Different Approaches to Conservation

The early 20th century, was where the first action was taken to protect these creatures. Reserves in African countries were erected where only local citizens and honourable guests were allowed to hunt. Likewise, India set up similar reserves where they protected Tigers because their population was diminishing. Hunting, loss of habitat and loss of prey were the main reasons why Tigers were becoming endangered. Lastly, Europe began to take part in this trend of creating reserves to conserve the animals. They unintentionally set up a safe habitat for smaller animals to live and grow in.

Reserves were the first step towards preservation. In the early 20th century, birds became a hot commodity, as their feathers became decorations for the wealthy to put on hats. To stop the bird population from becoming extinct, laws were put in to stop bird-hunting. These laws are still in full effect today, and only allow certain birds to be hunted, granted that you have the appropriate licenses.

Here is a video that discusses the different ways that people in Detroit have began to conserve wildlife, and different animals they have helped. Even though it is from an American viewpoint, it shares similar characteristics to that of Canada and the UK, since the idea and the ways of conservation are shared worldwide.

Another approach for conservation, which is very new, is designed to help the panda population increase and hopefully take them off the endangered list. Since pandas are relatively shy and introverted, they rarely mate. This does not help their cause, as the giant panda population is slowly decreasing. Scientists and researchers have found a way to help these pandas mate, and the solution is to show them panda pornography. Scientists believe many pandas that were raised in captivity do not know how to mate, and that these videos act as instructional videos for them. This strange and unconventional strategy has increased the mating of pandas, and have started a "baby boom" for pandas, with 20 new cubs being born this year.

Some who feel they are called to save the animals can help wildlife at home. They can choose to become vegan, meaning they do not use products which were tested on animals or products which involved animals in the process (such as leather jackets). They can also choose to become vegetarian, meaning they do not eat meat. Lastly, they can try to keep the environment healthy by growing plants and not littering. This can ensure a safe environment for wildlife to prosper in, and prevent the endangerment of animals.

4.2 Obstacles to Conservation

The final way for humans to conserve the animal kingdom and to protect rare species is to protect the very place that they inhabit. However, problems arise as business-oriented companies must sacrifice profit in order to protect the environment. For example, as the world around us continues to evolve, humans will maintain or increase the rate of construction of homes to accommodate the expansion of the human population. As this happens, land around the globe will surely be cleared out to feed this demand, causing animals to lose their habitat. Not only will humans create living space for themselves, they must construct other structures for commercial purposes.

A good example of this is the deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest located in South America. Much of the rainforest is being cut down for the wood which then can be used for construction. Also, the lumber is being cut to make room for expanding urban areas. Rainforests used to cover 14% of the Earth's surface, and now, only 6%. Within 40 years, all natural rainforests have been estimated to be totally used up. This type of logging has caused many animals in the area to become endangered, and some even extinct. The decreasing habitat, along with the death of other animals in the food chain, have caused this endangerment to the animals. Not only do we have to preserve the forests, we have to regenerate them to help the animals, since approximately half of the world's species of animals are inhabited there.

When some organizations send officers to patrol habitats such as the forests in Cambodia, they often face poachers and illegal loggers. These poachers and loggers are dangerous, as they are most likely armed and unfriendly. Men and women risk their lives everyday trying to rid the earth of these poachers and loggers, who are killing animals and cutting trees down for their own person use or trade, which is illegal. Although it is dangerous to hunt these lawbreakers down, it is necessary in order to help save the animals. If they are allowed to continue to do what they do, these criminals would destroy all the habitat that animals live in, and destroy whole species for their greed.

Here is a video of an anti-poaching squad funded by Wild Aid to preserve animals and their habitats in action:


5. Interesting Links

6. References/Works Cited

Beazley, K, and Boardman, R. Canada and Endangered Species. Politics of the Wild. Oxford University Press. Canada, 2001

Dictionary. MSN Encarta. 2007. 7 May 2007. <http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/dictionaryhome.aspx>

In Search of the Good: a Catholic Understanding of Moral Living. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Publication Service, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004. 279-280

Poacher Patrol. National Geographic: Wild Chronicles. 7 May 2007 <http://www.podcast.nationalgeographic.com/wild-chronicles/>

'Panda porn' to encourage mating. CNN.com. 25 January 2006. 7 May 2007. <http://www.cnn.com/2006/WORLD/asiapcf/01/25/panda.passion/>

The United Nations Works to Protect Endangered Animals. Threatened by Global Warming. 7 May 2007.

What is CITES? CITES. 7 May 2007. <http://www.cites.org/eng/disc/what.shtml>

YouTube. YouTube. 7 May. 2007. 7 May. 2007 <http://www.youtube.com/>

Appendix I, II and III. 7 May 2003 <http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/ia/intlagree/cites.htm>