Why should we save endangered species?
The health of an ecosystem is maintained by its plants and animals. When species become endangered, it is a sign of an ecosystem’s imbalance.
This balance is difficult to maintain: the loss of one species often triggers the loss of others. When gray wolves were hunted to near extinction in Yellowstone National Park, beaver populations also decreased significantly. This is because elk, without the wolf as its predator, grazed more heavily on plants needed by beavers for winter survival.
The conservation of endangered species is important for humans as well. A well-balanced ecosystem purifies the environment, giving us clean air to breathe, a healthy water system to support diverse marine life, and arable land for agricultural production.
It also provides us with unique plants with medicinal properties, which serve as the foundation of our medicines. When ecosystems fail, our own health is at risk. By saving endangered species, we are ultimately saving ourselves.
How to help endangered species
Although there are so many endangered species across the globe, there are also incredible efforts underway to save many of them.
Governments, nonprofits, international organizations, local communities, and individuals are working together to protect and restore population levels, and drive awareness campaigns to engage others in vital conservation work.
As an individual, you can make a difference by learning about and raising awareness about endangered species in your area, and across the world.
A sustainable way to do that is to get involved as a volunteer, partnering with governments and organizations on existing projects.
Not only is this a great way to learn about wildlife conservation, but you will gain hands-on, professional field experience, which can be difficult to obtain.
This is a valuable opportunity for those interested in scientific research and wildlife conservation, as well as those interested in international and community development, political science, and policy analysis.
GVI works on protecting endangered species by partnering with local governments, communities, and nonprofit organizations.
GVI has a proven history of conducting meaningful research work that makes a difference. As a volunteer on one of its programs, you can too.
Help protect sea turtles in Greece
Six of the seven species of sea turtles are listed as endangered or critically endangered. Sea turtles face multiple hazards that threaten their survival daily.
Pollution can cause death by entanglement or ingestion. Uncontrolled coastal development along the shoreline limits their nest grounds. Poachers take their eggs, and kill them for their meat, skin and shells. These are just a few of the common threats sea turtles face.
Sea turtles play a fundamental role in the marine ecosystem. By grazing on seagrass, turtles help keep it short, encouraging it to grow horizontally across the sea floor.
In this way, the seagrass is better able to support and provide protection for other marine life. It can also remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere more efficiently, which is vital for regulating the world’s climate.
The Mediterranean is the home of the loggerhead turtle, and they commonly lay their eggs along Greece’s shores. The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, since renamed ARCHELON, was established in the 1980s by a group of concerned citizens and scientists who were determined to protect this species, particularly as development threatened their habitats. They worked alongside the government to establish protections, which remain in place today.
GVI works alongside ARCHELON to patrol the beach to locate new tracks and nests, record data and measurements of the sea turtles, install protective night grids, and conduct public awareness activities.
Data collected is used to develop local coastal management plans and international conservation strategies. Protecting nests against predation and inundation by sea water ensures that as many hatchlings as possible survive.
Anti-rhino poaching awareness in South Africa
Black rhinos in South Africa are considered critically endangered. They have experienced more than a 90% decline in numbers since 1970. Today, few rhinos survive outside of national parks, and even then, they are still in danger.
In 2017, 1,028 rhinos were poached – a slightly lower figure than in 2016 – but a vast increase since 2007, when just 13 rhinos were poached.
Rhinos are poached primarily for their horns. Historically, these were used in traditional Chinese medicine. More recently, they are employed as a cure for cancer and general status symbol in Vietnam.
Rhinos are known as megaherbivores and are considered a keystone species – a species that significantly alters their surrounding habitat. Grazers, like rhinos, play a critical role in keeping the ecosystem balanced. Their grazing keeps grasses short, and in selecting certain plants over others to eat, they provide diverse species room to grow.
As a volunteer on GVI’s anti-poaching project, you will be trained on the conservation issues South Africa is dealing with in protecting the rhino. You will learn how to increase awareness of this issue, and work alongside local partners to collect data on rhinos, and other wildlife species.
Your work will include tracking wildlife, setting up camera traps, using radio telemetry equipment on research game drives, and darting and fitting radio collars on predators like cheetahs.
Volunteer with Asian elephants in Thailand
Unlike their African counterparts, Asian elephants are dwindling in numbers. This is largely due to elephant exploitation in the tourism industry and deforestation.
There are only 30,000 Asian elephants left in the world. 3,000 Asian elephants are found in Thailand, half of which are captive.
Once utilized in logging, military, and cultural celebrations, they are now often used for the amusement of tourists, performing in circuses, and being made to beg on the streets. These activities are harmful to the elephants and their caretakers, known as mahouts.
Elephants are also a keystone species. When they graze in the forest, they cover great stretches of ground and control vegetation growth. Elephants spread the seeds of the plants they feed on, which promotes continued biodiversity.
As a volunteer in Chiang Mai, at GVI’s Thailand elephant reintroduction project you will collect data on behavioral and feeding patterns and participate in regular health checks. You will work alongside elephant trainers, who have generations of knowledge on elephant behavior and care.
During your time in Thailand you will live with a local family, helping you to better understand how this community’s survival relies on these endangered animals.
Help prevent animals from becoming endangered
GVI’s conservation work also extends to animals who are not yet endangered, such as the cheetah and jaguar. Check out GVI’s programs in South Africa and Costa Rica to learn more about making a difference with these big cats.
Are you a student looking for another way to learn more about wildlife conservation and the preservation of endangered species?
GVI offers a three credit course titled the ‘Art & Science of Saving Species in Costa Rica’ that goes beyond the science of conservation.
The course also dives into decision-making processes and discusses what it means to use art and creativity to influence and motivate others to take action on conservation issues.
There are so many reasons to save endangered species and numerous ways to get involved. If you need help choosing a program, please feel free to contact us.
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