Endangered Species

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Endangered species are those whose populations have been so reduced that they are threatened with extinction. Thousand of species are included in this category. The international Union for the Conservation Of Nature Resources (headquartered in Morges, Switzerland) publishes a list of threatened mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. This list is growing at an alarming rate, as is the number of endangered species of fish, invertebrates, and plants.
During the millions of years that preceded the appearance of human life, extinction of organisms was linked to large scale geologic and climatic changes, the effects of which were translated into major alteration of the environment. Environment change is still the primary cause of the extinction of animals, but now the changes are greatly accelerated by human activity. Clearing land for farms and towns, lumbering, mining, building dams, and draining wetlands all alter the environment so extensively that ecosystems may be completely destroyed. With a burgeoning human population requiring food, shelter, and clothing and constantly demanding more energy using devices, the temptation to exploit land for human use without regard for consequences is great.
Frequently, several forms of environmental change are responsible for the disappearance of species. For example, as tropical forests are cut down, primates have progressively smaller feeding and living spaces. They also become more accessible to hunters, who kill monkeys for food and trap many primates for sale as pets, research animals, and zoo specimens. Some animal species may move into human communities when their own are destroyed. Extermination of marauding monkeys, roaming tigers, or foraging deer is easy to justify by people whose livelihood is threatened.