Zebras in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Things We Can Do To Save Wildlife from Extinction and Save the Planet

Things we can do to save wildlife from extinction include everything from symbolically adopting an animal and donating to established wildlife protection and conservation organisations to learning a bit about endangered species and sharing what you learn on social media.

I spent some time on World Wildlife Day doing a little research into endangered animals and was struck at what I learnt about the speed at which our planet is losing wildlife species. It’s at an alarming rate, according to Conservation International (CI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which claims that the largest number of species has been lost in a single generation – our generation – mostly due to the illegal wildlife trade, habitat destruction and climate change.

I downloaded the WWF’s 2016 Living Planet Report (the latest) and the gravity and enormity of the situation struck me. The report is very persuasive, arguing that the decline in global biodiversity puts “the survival of other species and our own future at risk”.

The WWF’s The Living Planet Index revealed that global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles had declined by 58 per cent between 1970 and 2012 and that we might see a two-thirds decline between 1970 and 2020 unless the world acts to change our energy and food systems to meet global commitments on climate change, sustainable development and biodiversity protection.

So while wildlife extinction is tragic in itself, and even more so because it means other species will suffer, it’s also a possible indicator of wild habitat loss and climate change, and a planet in danger – our planet.

But there are things we can do to save wildlife from extinction – small things that can go a long way in helping to protect the most threatened and endangered of the world’s wildlife.

Things We Can Do To Save Wildlife from Extinction

Below you’ll find suggestions for things we can do to save wildlife from extinction as well as links to some of the most established wildlife protection and conservation organisations with successful programmes in place, along with other avenues for you to assist – from a quick donation of as little as $10 to signing a petition.

Learn As Much As You Can About Endangered Species

One of the most valuable things we can do to save wildlife from extinction is to learn about the wildlife species that are endangered, how important they are, and what their loss will mean to the planet. The more we learn about endangered species the more informed and engaged we’ll become. When I took time out to do some research on World Wildlife Day I learnt that one of my favourite animals, the zebra, is under threat. I had no idea that the Grevy’s zebras is now an endangered species having experienced one of the most significant reductions of any African mammal due to habitat loss, which threatens their survival. Hunting is the main cause of their decline – for their beautiful skins, as well as increased hunting for food, and because they represent competition for resources, particularly water and grass, for cattle graziers. The African Wildlife Foundation has a project underway to collar the Grevy’s zebras, train wildlife scouts and to protect their habitat to help ensure their survival.

Share What You Learn About Endangered Wildlife

One of the easiest things we can do to save wildlife from extinction is to share what we learn – talk to your family and friends, your neighbours, strangers, your fellow students, colleagues at work, the people you meet when you travel, and share what you learn on social media. Follow established wildlife organisations on social media and share their news, projects, initiatives, and events, such as World Wildlife Day and Earth Hour (on 24 March 2018) with your social media friends and followers. Helping to raise awareness of the gravity of the situation and why we really don’t want a planet without tigers, lions, giraffes, zebras, and so on, is just as important as donating money and won’t cost you anything but your time. Share the good news stories too (did you know the giant panda is no longer endangered in China (although they are still vulnerable) and tiger numbers are on the rise in Nepal?) as they motivate people to support wildlife organisations that have ran successful programmes. The legendary naturalist Dr Jane Goodall, who has spent her life working to protect chimpanzees, great apes and other primates by funding sanctuaries, fighting illegal trafficking and through education, has embraced social media to raise awareness. She called it her 5th Reason for Hope and said: “It is by acting together, in this exciting way, that we can involve thousands – millions – of people, and this is what is going to change the world.” Search #wheresJane on Twitter and Instagram to find out where in the world Dr Goodall is working to promote her cause.

Adopt an Animal That’s Endangered

One of the best things we can do to save wildlife from extinction is to symbolically adopt an animal. Now, while I’m not a fan of favouritism, a symbolic adoption of an animal or species is a brilliant idea. Firstly, because it can be so overwhelming to even begin to contemplate the idea of saving a whole planet of endangered species at risk of extinction that you may find yourself abandoning the task and doing nothing at all. Adopting a species, such as the adorable lemur, gives focus and makes the project more manageable. I used Madagascar’s endemic primate as an example because the number of lemur species under threat doubled to six according to Save Our Species‘ 2016-2018 report on Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates. Go another step and adopt a particular animal at a wildlife sanctuary, such as a cute abandoned Sykes monkey called Val (there are others too) at Colobus Conservation, which we visited in Diani Beach, Kenya. Visit a sanctuary or refuge and you’ll become more engaged with the animals, more empathetic to their plight, and more dedicated to their cause. See the WWF site which also offer species up for a symbolic adoption – these make great gifts for kids and are a cool way to educate children about endangered wildlife.

Adopt a Wildlife Cause

Adopting a cause is an extension of adopting an animal and it’s one of the best things we can do to save wildlife from extinction. The more focused you are, the more likely you are to commit the time to travel to get firsthand experience of a situation or a project and with those encounters comes a passion and commitment to raising awareness, volunteering and fundraising. The connection we felt toward the Colobus monkeys’ cause was the result of our personal encounters experience when we were staying at a Diani Beach holiday rental in Kenya some years ago. We watched the cheeky Colobus monkeys that passed through every day, observed them leaping, grazing, playing, eating, and sleeping in our trees each day. Then we visited Colobus Conservation (formerly Colobus Trust) to learn about their plight and the many threats they faced due to hotel development impinging on their habitat, from road traffic accidents to electrocution from crossing the road via the power lines to avoid the traffic, as well as hunting and trapping. We promoted the plight of the Colobus monkeys and had a dream of returning one day to volunteer.

Join a Wildlife Conservation Organisation

Joining a wildlife conservation organisation is definitely one of the top things we can do to save wildlife from extinction. Again, there’s that sense of manageability that comes from focusing on lending a hand to one organisation in contrast to the feeling of helplessness at not being able to assist them all. And there’s a greater sense of commitment that comes from being a member, from receiving regular updates, donating on an ongoing basis, and the satisfaction from knowing you’re involved in an organisation that is running programmes with your help that is making a real difference. Different organisations have different goals so do some research to identify an established, reputable organisation that has had successful programmes and is running projects that you want to support. Start by researching organisations that are aimed at protecting the animals you most care about. This is a good list of the 10 Best Wildlife Conservation Organisations. While some are US-focused, most are global in outlook and reach and have local offices. Watch this space: we’ll add more for our Australian and European readers.

Volunteer at Wildlife Organisations

Volunteering is very controversial these days and not always the best way to support a project or cause. Volunteer at a school in a poor village in a developing country and you could be doing more harm than good, especially if you’re not a qualified educator and you’re plugging a hole rather than sharing expertise to train the trainers. You could also be causing emotional harm to the young pupils who become attached to teachers only have to say goodbye after a few weeks or months. Volunteer at an orphanage and you’re supporting an orphanage tourism industry that’s responsible for child trafficking. Volunteer to build a house and you could well be putting locals out of work. But wildlife is an area where you can volunteer ethically, whether it’s as a worker doing some of the grunt work – from cleaning up poop, preparing food or making enrichment toys at wildlife refuges and sanctuaries – or as a skilled volunteer who can help with research, marketing, social media, and creative services such as website design or video production to promote the organisation and its work.

Donate to Established Wildlife Organisations

If volunteering and joining wildlife organisations involve too much of a commitment – and let’s face it, not everyone has time to assist in such a capacity – then one of the easiest things we can do to save wildlife from extinction is to donate funds to wildlife conservation organisations. We recommend donating to organisations that are established with long experience in developing, monitoring and reporting on programmes to protect endangered animal species and their habitats, conducting research, providing locals with jobs as rangers, lobbying governments and corporations, providing public education, and so on. You don’t have to donate a lot of money either – donations can be as little as $10, they can be one-off donations or regular monthly or annual donations. You can make donations in honour of someone or give a donation as a gift. And they’re not always strict donations either these days. Some organisations will give something in return, such as a calendar or set of postcards. In some countries donations are also tax deductible.

Buy From a Wildlife Organisation Gift Shop

Buying birthday, Christmas and other holiday gifts for family and friends from the online shops of our favourite wildlife organisation is another one of the easiest things we can do to save wildlife from extinction. Most of the large organisations have stores on their websites and profits from your purchase are injected straight back into the organisation’s initiatives. At the Nature Conservancy online shop you can buy a gift and donate to a specific cause at the same time. For example the Orangutan Family Forest gift includes a plush orangutan in a gift box, a bookmark, and an official personalised certificate and holder confirming that the gift helps safeguard vital rainforest habitat for orangutans. Aimed at inspiring kids to protect nature, Your Backyard Adventure gift includes a personalised e-card, nature inspired activity book, colourful sticker set, explorer binoculars, and a nature journal. The WWF online shop meanwhile is crammed with plenty of cool t-shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, baseball caps, boxers, PJs, socks, scarves, mittens, you name it. They also have panda snow domes and salt and pepper shakers, fluffy animals, keychains, jigsaw puzzles, colouring books, coffee mugs, reusable cups, beach towels, tote bags, water canteens, umbrellas, note cards, pet sets, and more. I’ve got my eye on the rhino earrings.

Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

Reducing our carbon footprints probably seems like one of the hardest things we can do to save wildlife from extinction but in fact it’s a case once again of small things making a big difference. Pollution caused by carbon dioxide emissions is one of the most serious threats to wildlife – oceans become more acidic and thereby endanger marine life while polluted water and air impacts land based animals. If everybody did their bit to reduce their carbon footprints, greenhouse gases would decrease, global warming would decelerate, and the impact on wildlife habitats would be reduced. What can you do? Eat locally produced, organic food and, if you can, reduce your meat and dairy intake. Not asking you to become vegan, believe me, just cut back a little; read the Less is More report and you could be persuaded. Lower your water use, install solar panels and insulate your home, so you use heaters and air conditioners less. Turn lights off when you don’t need them on and use energy efficient appliances. Buy second-hand stuff and recycle, re-use and re-sell things. Ride a bicycle and walk more, and drive your car less. When you do need to drive, avoid gridlock and drive slowly. Take fewer flights and travel by train more. Take fewer holidays but when you do take a vacation travel for longer and more slowly. There are even more ideas on the Carbon Offsets to Alleviate Poverty (COTAP) website.

Become a Wildlife Activist

For many of us, becoming an activist is probably one of the most extreme things we can do to save wildlife from extinction and by that I’m in no way suggesting you take up extreme measures to promote your wildlife cause, like tying yourself to trees or hopping aboard Greenpeace’Rainbow Warrior (although you could, of course). I mean it’s extreme in the sense that it requires a far greater commitment than, say, donating $50 once a year or buying Christmas gifts from the WWF site. This idea is one better suited to students and retirees who have a bit more time on their hands and those of you with more flexible work hours. To become a wildlife activist you need to be dedicated to your cause. You need to do everything on this list and more, from getting involved at a grassroots level and turning up to meetings, demonstrations and protest marches to writing letters to your government representatives and getting out on election day to support the candidates supporting your causes – the candidates who are serious about protecting wildlife from extinction by curbing destruction of forests and pollution of rivers and oceans, meeting global environmental commitments, dealing with the excesses of big corporations, and doing whatever else is necessary to reverse the effects of climate change.

What have I left out? What other things can we do to save wildlife from extinction? Since posting this guide other things have come to mind that we overlooked, from fundraising to doing tours operated by wildlife organisations. We’re going to add more ideas to this post and we’d love to hear your suggestions. 

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