Endangered Species: Top 10 Questions

October 2007

Thanks to Steve Burns, Zoo Boise Director; Eric Yensen, The College of Idaho; and Scott Ransom, Pocatello Zoo Director for the answers.

1: What animal has been endangered the longest?

When the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973, there was a whole group of animals that were immediately listed as endangered. These included creatures like the American Alligator, the Bald Eagle, and the California condor. Some of those animals have all been endangered since 1973. The Bald Eagle has since been removed from the endangered list. (From Evan in Mrs. Hunt's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary in Boise)

2: How many endangered animals and plants are in Idaho?

There are 20 endangered or threatened species in the state of Idaho. Gray wolves above Coeur d'Alene are listed as threatened. The Gray Wolf is considered an "experimental" species in the main part of Idaho. The Grizzly Bear is considered threatened. We have salmon and steelhead that are endangered in most of the river runs. And what is it about these animals, which causes them to be endangered or threatened? I think we have different causes. The Northern Idaho Ground Squirrel is endangered or technically threatened because of changes in forest management. Fire suppression for many years has led to lots of trees invading the meadows in which they live. So that's been the problem with that particular species. I think we have to look for different causes for different species. It's not one blanket problem. (From Meaghan in Mrs. Woodall's class in Hayden Elementary school in Hayden)

3: What is the most endangered species in the world right now?

There's the Lear's Macaw down in Brazil. I think there are very few Siberian Tigers left, a very small number of South China Tigers. It would be interesting if they could prove that the Ivory-billed Woodpecker does exist because there would be a very small number of those. They had a sighting in 1999 and captured an audio recording of its call in 2004. It's a very large woodpecker that, I think, was classified as extinct in 1996. It is found, hopefully, in Arkansas but they are not sure if the bird is still in existence. (From Allison in Mrs. Guilford's Class at Cynthia Mann Elementary in Boise)

4: Why do people endanger species when the species may actually help us?

I don't think anyone goes out and intentionally tries to endanger a species. I think that everyone needs to do a better job of understanding how the natural world works and what our impact on it is. No matter what humans do, we do have an impact. Sometimes it's a small impact; sometimes it's a large impact. But we do have an impact. And so the more that we learn about the natural world and how the things that we do in our everyday lives affect those species, the better off we all are. Once we understand that, then we can change our activity to have a smaller impact. I think a lot of people have the idea that we can make a choice between nature and economy, and they don't realize that those two things are interlinked. Not realizing that gets us into trouble a lot of times. So we go ahead and do things because we see an economic advantage in doing them and we don't always understand the consequences. (From Alyssa in Mrs. McCamish-Cameron class at Cynthia Mann Elementary in Boise)

5: What kinds of penguins are endangered and are they endangered because of hunting?

There is one type of penguin that lives in Africa and the Humboldt Penguin that lives along the edges of Chile' and Peru that are endangered. There may be others. These penguins are endangered for a couple of different reasons. The first reason would be destruction of habitat. They live in areas where people mine for guano or poop. Guano makes a great fertilizer. These penguins actually make their nests out of guano so people come in and destroy their nests. Also oil spills have really taken a toll on penguins in certain parts of the world. And then if we take too many fish out of the ocean, then penguins don't have enough fish to eat. Those are the big three reasons why they're endangered. (From Chris in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary in Boise)

6: Are tigers endangered?

They are. Back in 1991, scientists estimated there were about 100,000 tigers in the world. They stretched all the way from the area around the Caspian Sea, Iran, all the way through India, southeast Asia, through China and then all the way up into Russia. And researchers said that there were eight subspecies. Three of those subspecies have gone extinct: the ones in Bali, the ones in Java, and the ones around the Caspian Sea. Scientists also wonder if there are any South China Tigers left. So the number of tigers has dropped from about 100,000 down to probably about 5,000 left in the wild, which really isn't very many. (From Tyler in Mrs. McCamish-Cameron's class at Cynthia Mann Elementary in Boise)

7: Do endangered animals always go extinct?

No. With successes like the Bald Eagle or the Peregrine Falcon, we seem to have made some headway saving some species. (From Nicole in Mrs. Woodall's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary in Hayden)

8: Are Kimono Dragons extinct or endangered?

They are classified as an endangered species. There were never that many Komodo Dragons. They live on four little islands in Indonesia. They estimate there are about 3,000 to 4,000 of them left in the world. The problem is they come from an island. If you live on a big huge chunk of land like Idaho and something happens, like a big fire, chances are you can move to another area. But when animals live on an island, if something happens, chances are they can't move. And so when you live on an island, the chances of going extinct sometimes get greater because there's nowhere to go. Island populations are always the most vulnerable, it seems. (From Josiah in Caldwell)

9: Are polar bears endangered?

There is some question about if they are endangered or not, but there's evidence that the loss of Arctic ice is going to hurt them. There are still some good populations in various places, but they have shown that global warming will not be good for polar bears. They like to go out on the ice and hunt for seals. If the ice melts and it's not strong enough, they can't stand on it and they break through. This means Polar bears could drown or they won't have enough places to go find seals. So hopefully, we can do something about global warming and keep polar bears around. (From Katie in Mrs. Schweitzer's class at Riverside Elementary in Boise)

10: What can we do around our homes to save species?

I think the biggest thing is educating the public, and especially children, that the situation is not hopeless. You can do things to protect wildlife in your own areas. You can build birdhouses, birdbaths and encourage your parents not to use dangerous chemicals on the lawn. You can also help protect animals' habitats and their water supply. We can all also support zoos. Some zoos do breed endangered species. There are captive breeding programs. And in some cases, zoo officials have reintroduced endangered species back into the wild. And for some animals, the zoo is the only place that they can be found. Breeding programs try to increase animal populations so they can go back into the wild but it's not a fix-all. It's not going to work for every single species. But it works sometimes, and we should support them. (From Mrs. Childer's class at Hayden Meadows Elementary in Hayden)

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