Endangered Species Day is a bittersweet event. While it's heartbreaking to think back on all the species we have already lost during our last few generations, and all we stand to lose in the next few, it's also a chance to look at all the many ways we can make a difference and bring species back from the brink — even during the pandemic. Here are five ways to get started:
1. Make a donation to a conservation organization. Every penny helps these local, national and international groups to do on-the-ground work in protecting habitats and species. Even if it's just $5, it helps.
2. Visit your local natural history museum virtually, or sign up for a docent-lead tour at a local park, preserve or wilderness area for the future. You'll learn a lot about your local wildlife including species that may be threatened with decline. Endangered species aren't just rhinos in Africa or leopards in Asia — they're also the insects, birds, mammals and even plants right in our own backyards, and many times there is the opportunity to protect them. It just takes learning that they are there, why they are threatened, and what can be done to help them.
3. Join a wildlife conservation organization. There are many reputable organizations to choose from including the National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Wildlife Conservation Network and more. You can join a larger organization or even one that focuses on specific species or habitats. Your membership shows your ongoing support and also provides a way to stay in the loop about what's happening and how you can help.
4. Take to social media with information about endangered species. Today is the perfect day to send a few tweets, add a few Facebook updates, pin a few photos or upvote some Reddit articles about endangered species conservation. You can be a source of information and awareness today, and perhaps inspire even more people to get involved!
5. Stay informed! Make it a daily practice to check in on news about endangered species on a local, national or global level. You'll be able to see when and how you can help, and also ways you can get your friends and family involved in conservation as well.
Many species are on the brink of being lost forever, for no reason other than human-caused decline. We can change that; we can end poaching, habitat destruction, pollution and so many other factors causing declines around the world. It is time to get involved, make a difference, and rebuild the biodiversity of our planet.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was first published in May 2015.