• Question: If extinction is a natural part of life on Earth, why should we care about protecting endangered species?

    Asked by ashleighlou to Betul, Bridget, Ceri-Wyn, Maria on 24 Jun 2010 in Categories: .
    • Photo: Maria Pawlowska

      Maria Pawlowska answered on 24 Jun 2010:

      Hi again Ashleigh,

      extinction is natural, but currently we are causing animals to go extinct at kmuch quicker rate than is natural. Normally it’s happens at the rate of about 1 species per 1 mln years and now it’s more than 1000 per million years! We’re drastically changing the ecosystems and giving animals and plants no time to catch up.

    • Photo: Bridget Waller

      Bridget Waller answered on 24 Jun 2010:

      Oh, this is a super question. Extinctions DO happen naturally, but never at the rate that we have seen in the last century. So, although life is a constant battle on earth, humans have changed the goal posts by making changes to the environment (cutting trees down, global warming, hunting) so quickly that species can’t adapt quick enough. They would need to mutate over generations for new strategies to be selected. So we should try and minimise these changes, so that we don’t increase the rate of extinctions even more! Scientists think that many primates will go extinct in the wild in the next 20 years – possibly including chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Very sad.

    • Photo: Ceri-Wyn Thomas

      Ceri-Wyn Thomas answered on 24 Jun 2010:

      Are you sure you’re not an evolutionary biologist? Are you thinking of becoming one? You’re right- extinction is a perfectly natural part of life. In fact, without extinction events, new organisms would never have the opportunity to exploit the niches left by extinct organisms. That’s exactly what happened after the dinosaurs went extinct- mammals exploited all the newly available niches and without that we wouldn’t be here today! However, natural extinction events are different from man-made extinctions. We destroy habitats, we hunt animals for their fur or tusks, or even just for fun. We kills sharks for their fins, we kill whales for their meat. We are driving many beautiful, incredible animals to extinction simply for our own enjoyment or gain. This behaviour not only causes suffering in these animals but also severely reduces biodiversity on our planet which has implications for the way the whole biosphere functions! Therefore it is important to stop things like this from happening both to alleviate the suffering of our relatives (remember we are animals too) and to ensure that we don’t leave a planet devoid of amazing animal life behind us. Evolution and extinction is one thing. Needlessly killing one another is something different entirely.