Act for Endangered Species

While species protection sounds like a job for politicians and scientists, your daily actions make a big difference, too. Assuming you already recycle, bring your own reusable bag to stores and pick up litter, here are some more ideas to help wildlife, including our most imperiled.

Don’t let your engine idle. Every year, idling U.S. drivers waste 6 billion gallons of gasoline and $20 billion. Oil drilling and spills destroy and damage habitat and wildlife. Vehicle fumes harm human health and wildlife.

Avoid single-use plastic. Scientists estimate that 315 billion pounds of plastic waste swirl in our oceans, with more than 17 billion pounds added every year. Marine debris doesn't just come from beach litter. Even in landlocked cities, heavy rain washes trash from streets and sidewalks into storm drains, which connect to local waterways and to the ocean.

Turn out the lights. Artificial night lighting doesn’t just diminish our view of the stars. It disrupts the feeding, mating and migratory behavior of wildlife—from sea turtles and birds to fish, frogs, salamanders and fireflies.

Slow down when driving. With up to 2 million collisions between vehicles and wildlife every year, U.S. roadway accidents have major impacts on humans and wildlife. The Federal Highway Administration identified 21 threatened and endangered species—from large mammals to amphibians and slow-moving reptiles—directly affected by vehicle-related deaths. 

Never release balloons. From dolphins and sea turtles to bighorn sheep, owls and more, wildlife die because of balloons—even so-called biodegradable ones that take years to degrade. Some animals mistake balloons for food, leading to blocked digestive tracts and slow death by starvation. Others get entangled in balloon strings, leaving wildlife unable to move, eat or defend themselves.

Recycle electronics. Most locales have a household hazardous waste drop-off. Electronics contain arsenic, cadmium, lead and zinc, and some—cell phones included—contain metals found in coltan, a mineral extracted deep in the habitat of the endangered eastern lowland African gorilla. With 80 percent of the world’s known coltan supply in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recycling reduces the need for habitat-destroying mining.

Food choices matter. Minimizing use of products containing palm oil and ensuring that any palm oil you use is sustainably sourced helps protect the only habitat left for orangutans, along with tigers, proboscis monkeys and more. And don’t forget the wildlife benefits of reduced meat consumption. If you eat meat, look for a certified wildlife-friendly source to reward ranchers who practice coexistence with free-roaming wildlife. Every year USDA Wildlife Services provides wildlife-damage control services that kill millions of animals—including wolves, coyotes, black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, river otters, foxes, beavers and prairie dogs. Often this is to protect cattle and sheep from predators or because ranchers view some animals as competitors for grass.

Lead by example. It is the most effective way to show others how easy it is to make a difference and help wildlife every day.

—Heidi Ridgley


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