Uncle Rhino

Like many others, my childhood dream was to be a veterinarian. I grew up with a love for animals and wanted to live that passion out for the rest of my life. That is, until I realized I’d have to deal with blood and guts.

Though I’m no longer on the path to becoming a veterinarian, my love for animals still exists. So, one can imagine how devastated I was upon discovering the last male northern white rhino recently died. Only two females remain and they’re the only hope to save the species from extinction. The subspecies has been endangered for years now, but as humans, we didn’t do enough to prevent this problem.

Sadly, this isn’t a new issue. There are more endangered animal species now than ever before. Over 8,000 plants and animals are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. This doesn’t even include those that are threatened or critically endangered, which means there are thousands more.

With the last male northern white rhino’s death, this issue becomes more and more serious, but we continue to let it fester without making any significant progress. The endangered species list has increased more than twofold within the past two decades.

Though it may seem there are more pressing issues at hand, it’s up to humans to save endangered species and it’s imperative that we do so now.

Oftentimes people look at this issue as an attempt for people who love animals to keep the cute or exotic ones around. Or in other cases, they see it as an issue that doesn’t directly affect them. However, in truth, the issue of endangered species does affect the masses in the long run. This is known as the tragedy of the commons. Saving animals from the endangered species list is necessary for our collective society and the way our communities function.

Researchers have proven that diverse ecosystems foster productivity “because they contain key species that have a large influence on productivity, and differences in functional traits among organisms increase total resource capture.” Thus, by ensuring endangered plants and animals are no longer at risk for extinction, humans are ensured a fully functioning and diverse ecosystem that promotes productivity.

Simply put, we need these animals to keep ourselves alive. If we continue to allow various species to become threatened, endangered and eventually extinct, we’re enabling biodiversity deterioration. Such a loss of biodiversity hinders proper functioning of the ecosystems we need to survive.

Not only would our planet and communities benefit from reducing the endangered species list, but so would our economy.

Researchers discovered the economic influence of ecological systems is more important than we may realize. After running the numbers, the value of our ecological systems, including endangered plants and animals, was found to be about $33 trillion annually. This is considered the minimum estimate and can be compared to the global gross domestic product estimation of just $18 trillion each year. Clearly, it’s a substantial amount of profit and value. Such evidence illustrates how necessary these endangered species are to our survival and economic functionality.

The benefits of aiding endangered and threatened species are clear, but implementing a successful way to combat the issue is the most difficult task.

Creating a better legal system to end poaching and focusing on conserving habitats is the most promising solution to prevent species’ endangerment. Though there may be other possible methods to deal with this problem, these two courses of action are the most realistic.

Illegal hunting, also known as poaching, is common in areas with weak law enforcement. Groups like the International Anti-Poaching Foundation have made strides to effectively protect endangered animals, but it’s not enough. We need stronger law enforcement because laws are being ignored. Increasing the number of people protecting endangered species could significantly help this issue.

Another way to end this problem would be to emphasize conserving species’ habitats and diminishing pollution rates. Pollution affects more than just endangered species. So, by doubling down on pollution laws and enforcement, humans, climate, atmosphere, plants and animals would all benefit.

We also need to focus on conserving habitats. This is a tougher argument as economic and societal growth depends on the expansion of land usage and resources, but we have to prioritize our plants and animals as well. Putting legal limits on our expansion and preservation of national parks is a necessity.

Some may argue that preserving threatened and endangered species could be incredibly expensive. The estimated cost of creating and maintaining protection of specific wildlife area comes out to be $58 billion. While this may seem costly, the price of ecosystem losses could be substantially more expensive.

While saving all plants and animals from the endangered species list may not be possible right now, starting to really put a dent in the list is imperative. In the end, conserving habitats and honing in on pollution and poaching issues will be the key to ending species endangerment. Our society needs to understand the importance of fixing this, otherwise the endangered species list will continue to grow and extinction will be inevitable.

At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to survive on this planet. We might as well make sure all species have that chance.

Lauren Tritch is a freshman advertising and public relations major. Reach her at opinion@dailynebraskan.com or via @dnopinion.