The news might be grim when it comes to endangered species (especially mammals, an estimated 25 percent of which are headed for the extinction list) there are steps ordinary citizens can take - even if you don't happen to be a conservationist or biologist. While you might not be able to single-handedly save the animals, you can pitch in.
From the dangerous to the cuddly, mammals living on land and in water are facing the same fate. Like it or not, many of us share responsibility by not recycling those beer bottles or plastic soft-drink containers. Have you switched from plastic bags to recyclables yet? What are you waiting for?
An article by Kenneth Weiss in The Los Angeles Times details a survey compiled over five years by a whopping 1,700 researchers across 130 countries. They found that out of the 5,487 types of mammals around the world, about a quarter of them are disappearing. Topping the list of endangered species are marine mammals. Primates are next. And the extinction list goes on and on. But you might be thinking, "What can I do about that?"
Although it might seem a stretch to think your actions could have an impact on endangered species, it really isn't that far-fetched. And even though we would all like to make lofty contributions to save the animals, it's more realistic to focus on what we can do in our daily lives to help.
1) Put trash in its place: The first thing to do is to avoid using the ground as your personal trash can. Cheri Ikerd, president of OC Wildlife & Beach Tour Inc., an eco-tour company based in California, says not polluting is more important than you might realize. "Any trash on the ground here in Southern California ends up in the ocean. Other places it could be a lake, a stream, a river, etc. And, with the marine life or animal life we have here in the ocean, many animals mistake the trash for food and when they eat it, they can't properly digest it and they end up starving to death."
2) Recycle: "Plastic is terrible for our waterways and the environment and affects every living creature," Ikerd says. So be sure to bring reusable bags with you to the grocery store, Target and wherever else might be on your agenda. Ladies, buy bags that you can stow in your purses, and guys, leave bags in your car on the passenger side so you won't forget them.
3) Get mugged: For those of you working in an office, Ikerd's next suggestion is to launch a mug movement. Instead of using 10 Styrofoam cups a day, you'll keep the environment in better shape by consuming your beverage of choice in a mug, and encourage your co-workers to do the same. You can still stand around the water cooler sporting your own stylish mug.
4) Don't feed the animals: If you live in a rural or suburban area, you might be tempted to give food to wild animals that wander into your yard. Even though it might give you a warm feeling to think you're helping the animals, in fact you're doing the opposite. When animals become dependent upon humans, they can lose the ability to forage for themselves. By giving a raccoon your meatloaf leftovers, for instance, you're intruding on his habitat. Ikerd reminds people that wild animals need to be able to fend for themselves.
5) Think before you buy: Another step you can take is to educate yourself. Megan Mertsock, assistant director of education with the Dolphin Research Center in Florida says, "Being an educated consumer is another very important action that a person can take. Purchasing products that are environmentally friendly and supporting sustainable fisheries to prevent the overharvesting of fish is another great way to protect marine life." Keep in mind there's plenty you can do to help animals as they fight for their lives and you move through yours.