12 Major Causes of Endangered Species

If a species of animal is listed as endangered, it indicates that the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified it as almost extinct.

This indicates that a sizable amount of the species’ range has already been lost to extinction and that the rate of births is lower than the rate of extinction but what are the causes of endangered species?

As you might guess, people are involved in quite a few of the primary reasons that lead to a species becoming endangered, which is why an increasing number of plant and animal species are in danger of going extinct today. In actuality, human encroachment on endangered species’ habitats poses the greatest threat to those species.

Thankfully, global conservation initiatives are focused on assisting these imperiled species in reviving their declining numbers through a range of humanitarian measures, such as reducing illicit poaching, stopping pollution and habitat degradation, and limiting the introduction of exotic species into newly created habitats.

Causes of Endangered Species

Here are 12 common causes for endangered species and what you can do to help.

  • Loss of Habitat
  • Invasive Species
  • Animal-Human Conflict
  • Overexploitation of Resources
  • Disease
  • Pollution
  • Highly-Specialized Species
  • Variability in Genetics
  • Small Populations
  • Low birth rate
  • Climate Change
  • Natural Causes

1. Loss of Habitat

One of the main hazards to wildlife, including both plants and animals, is habitat loss. The degradation of habitat is making many species vulnerable to extinction.

Human activity is often the cause of habitat loss or fragmentation, which is the division of large land areas into smaller, discontinuous environments.
With an increasing human population comes the demand for more land for infrastructure, crops, and residences.

This leads to the destruction or fragmentation of forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other natural habitats, depriving many species of a suitable place to live. One of the main reasons for habitat loss is deforestation or the destruction of forests.

Studies have indicated that because of mining, agriculture, urbanization, and deforestation, humans have changed 75% of the planet’s land surface. This has been a primary cause of the decrease in biodiversity.

2. Invasive Species

The introduction of new species raises serious concerns for both the fauna and flora. An invasive species can quickly take over an ecosystem if it is introduced without any natural predators or competition.

Even though native species have lived in a given biological environment for centuries, they may not be able to cope with species that are in close competition with them for food. As a result, invasive species frequently have a predatory or competitive advantage over native species.

In essence, neither native species nor invasive species have evolved natural defenses against one another. The Galápagos tortoise is one species that faces endangerment as a result of both competition and predation. In the 20th century, non-native goats were brought to the Galápagos Islands.

The food supply of the tortoises was devoured by these goats, which quickly reduced the turtle population. The tortoises were compelled to leave their natural feeding grounds because they were unable to defend themselves or control the excessive number of goats on the island.

Naturally, the risk that invading species represent to the native, endangered species that call that ecosystem home increases with ecological size.

3. Animal-Human Conflict

An animal species’ status as endangered or threatened is directly related to overhunting. Numerous species have been driven extinct due to hunting and other methods of human-animal conflict. 

For example, throughout the past century, the number of tigers worldwide has decreased by 97%. But one particular species of tiger has already been extinct.

Before going extinct in the 1970s, the Caspian tiger, often called the Persian tiger, was one of the biggest big cats on the planet. Caspian tigers, which were mostly located in Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Central Asia, were frequently hunted and experienced habitat loss due to human settlement.

Rhinos and elephants that are poached for their ivory tusks are among the other creatures that are in danger. Poaching has claimed the lives of 9,885 African rhinos in the past ten years.

Furthermore, throughout the previous 50 years, shark populations have decreased by 71% in terms of meat, liver oil, and fins. 391 shark species are classified by the IUCN as severely endangered, endangered, or threatened, equating to 32%.

4. Overexploitation of Resources

Another factor contributing to the endangerment of species is overexploitation or overharvesting of resources. Overuse of non-renewable resources has the potential to result in their complete depletion.

Naturally, many animal species rely on natural resources for both a viable food source and a habitat. These materials can put others in danger if they degrade quickly.

Overuse of natural resources has detrimental effects on people as well. Many plant species that are classified as threatened or severely endangered are also highly sought-after medicinal species.

The Pacific and Chinese yews are among the yew trees whose populations are declining as a result of overharvesting, according to the IUCN. This plant species has a poor rate of reproduction and a slow germination period of one to two years, making it difficult for it to recover.

A significant medicinal plant for the synthesis of taxol is the yew tree species. The Pacific yew’s bark is the source of the medication taxol, which is used to treat ovarian, lung, and breast cancer. Should yew trees be used indefinitely, cancer patients may suffer greatly if they disappear.

5. Disease

Both humans and animals die from diseases. At the Lossi Sanctuary, the Ebola virus killed 5,000 extremely endangered western gorillas between 2002 and 2003. In the Odzala-Kokoua National Park, the virus claimed the lives of another 300 gorillas between 2003 and 2004.

In the early 2000s, a deadly fungus wiped out thirty different species of amphibians in Panama. Six million bats have been killed and many species are on the verge of extinction in North America by a deadly fungus that originated in Europe and is innocuous to bats.

It is estimated that the “white-nose syndrome” is to blame for the 99 percent drop in northern long-eared bat populations.

It was a fungal pathogen that was unintentionally brought into the country from Asia that wiped out the American chestnut tree, one-hundred-foot hardwoods that once numbered in the billions in the eastern forests of the United States, and a major source of food for a variety of wildlife.

The American chestnut tree lacked the fungus’s inherent resistance since it had evolved in environments devoid of the fungus. Research into producing a hybrid chestnut variety that crosses an American chestnut variety with a Chinese chestnut variety resistant to the chestnut fungus is now underway.

6. Pollution

Aside from the obvious physical intrusion, human expansion of animal habitats contaminates the surrounding environment with pesticides, petroleum products, and other substances, destroying local plants and animals’ only reliable sources of food.

Some species as a result completely perish, while others are forced into places where they are unable to obtain food or refuge. Even worse, when one animal population declines, it has an impact on numerous other species within its food chain, increasing the likelihood of population declines for multiple species.

Based on research, 48 of 494 critically endangered species are expected to continue declining because of trash, energy pollution, runoff from agriculture, and wastewater overflow. For instance, marine turtle numbers are in jeopardy due to ocean pollution.

According to recent studies, a marine turtle that consumes 14 pieces of plastic has a 50% chance of dying. Numerous animal species are at risk of extinction due to the annual 14 million tonnes of plastic waste that enter the ocean.

7. Highly-Specialized Species

Certain species need a particularly specific kind of environment since they are so highly specialized. Highly specialized species are at risk when environmental changes occur as a result of habitat degradation, climate change, or human activities.

They frequently need a particular kind of habitat, which restricts the number of potential mates they can have, and inbreeding can result in poor genetics, illness, infertility, and low mortality.

Giant pandas and polar bears are two instances of extremely specialized animals. Despite being well attuned to their surroundings, both have been put at risk as a result of drastic environmental changes.

Polar bears remain threatened even if their numbers have climbed to 22,000–31,000 worldwide. In the meantime, the number of pandas remaining in Southeast Asia’s bamboo forests is just 1,864. Certain highly specialized species can evolve or adapt to changes in their habitat, but others suffer greatly.

8. Variability in Genetics

A population is more likely to go extinct if its genetic variety is minimal because it cannot adapt to changing environmental conditions. For instance, a disease may completely wipe off a community in one fell swoop if that group lacks a gene that makes them resistant to it.

Certain animals, like the cheetah, have low levels of genetic variety, which limits their ability to adjust to problems like habitat loss and overhunting. They are also more susceptible to illnesses and the manifestation of harmful genetic abnormalities due to their poor genetic diversity.

There is little genetic variation in koalas. This could be the reason for their heightened susceptibility to the koala retrofit virus and chlamydia. Additionally, because of their sensitivity, koalas may find it more challenging to adjust to changes in the climate and human encroachment on their habitats.

9. Small Populations

Certain species may have tiny initial populations. A certain species might not have the chance to thrive, particularly if it is highly specialized and restricted to a specific habitat. Their chances of surviving in the future are decreased as a result.

One illustration of a rare species is the Himalayan brown bear, which can be found in central Asia at higher altitudes. In India, just 10% of Himalayan brown bears are found in protected areas.

The two biggest risks to the species—habitat loss and climate change—have not been thoroughly studied. In fact, by 2050, scientists estimate that 73% of the habitat used by Himalayan brown bears will disappear.

10. Low birth rate

Reproduction rates are thought to be a natural means of preserving population balance. Certain species are not highly prolific breeders, and their offspring may be few each time. Some animals might not have as many opportunities to reproduce over a lifetime since it takes them several years to reach sexual maturity.

Larger mammals often live longer lives and have fewer offspring, while smaller animals, such as rodents, have shorter lifespans and give birth to multiple litters consecutively. Only once a year, for an average of two to four days in the spring, do female pandas ovulate, which is the only time they can become pregnant.

Consequently, when large mammals suffer man-induced death, it takes longer for their numbers to recover. Marine mammals are a prime example, as commercial exploration has led to a decline in their populations.

11. Climate Change

Possibly the biggest threat to endangered species is climate change. According to the IUCN, 10,967 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are at higher risk of going extinct as a result of human-induced climate change.

The term “climate change” describes the long-term modifications to the Earth’s weather patterns brought about by human activities like the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation. These shifts have an effect on ecosystems and the animals that live there.

For instance, climate change puts sea turtles in danger of going extinct. Sea turtle nesting grounds are at risk due to rising sea levels brought on by global warming, which may cause a drop in sea turtle populations.

Furthermore, sea turtle eggs may hatch earlier than usual as a result of rising water temperatures, which lowers the likelihood of their survival. If the climate problem is not addressed, more wildlife will be vulnerable to its effects and may go extinct.

12. Natural Causes

Naturally, extinction and endangerment of species can occur in the absence of human intervention. A normal aspect of evolution is extinction.

  • Fossil records demonstrate that the decline of many species occurred long before humans arrived. These drivers included overcrowding, competition, abrupt changes in the climate, and catastrophic events like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

How You Could Assist

There are numerous ways to support endangered species and lessen the environmental challenges to their survival, including the following:

  • Establishing a backyard habitat for native birds and insects;
  • Recycling properly and generating less plastic waste;
  • Ceasing the use of pesticides and herbicides that harm plants and animals;
  • Driving slowly to avoid colliding with animals; signing petitions to protect species worldwide;
  • Organizing or participating in habitat cleanup events in your community;
  • Contributing funds to conservation organizations that safeguard endangered animals
  • Spread awareness of threatened plant and animal species.

All forms of life on Earth, including plants, animals, and tiny creatures, are essential to the upkeep of a robust ecosystem. People and all other living things suffer when ecosystems and their inhabitants deteriorate. For this reason, safeguarding endangered species is essential for the future.


Editor at EnvironmentGo! | providenceamaechi0@gmail.com | + posts

A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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