11 min read

The Circle Of Life: How You Can Help Animals On The Brink Of Extinction

<p>Dave / <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/99255685@N00/2132684141/" target="_blank">Flickr</a> (<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/" target="_blank">CC BY 2.0</a>)</p>

A wise lion once said:

"Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance, you need to understand that balance and respect all creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope. We are all connected in the great circle of life."

"The Lion King" taught us a valuable lesson through the words of Mufasa, with a theory that has always been essential to every living thing: the circle of life. However, with nearly a quarter of all mammal species and a third of amphibians threatened to extinction according to the IUCN Red List, the "delicate balance" is fractured by the activity of the most powerful of all mammals: humans. All animals serve a purpose here on planet earth, so there is an urgent need to safeguard and conserve wildlife and the places where they live. Here are some of the animals on the brink of extinction:

The African elephant

Population: Today between 470,000 and 690,000 African elephants survive in 37 countries across the sub-Saharan region.

Reason for extinction: Elephant populations were halved between 1981 and 1989 through systematic poaching - mainly for their ivory; although in central Africa elephants are also poached for meat.

Circle of life: Elephants directly influence forest composition and density, and can alter the broader landscape. In tropical forests, elephants create clearings and gaps in the canopy that encourage tree regeneration. In the savannas, they can reduce bush cover to create an environment favorable to a mix of browsing and grazing animals.

How you can help: Help stop illegal wildlife trade, and reduce conflict between people and elephants. Try volunteer projects such as Namibia Desert Elephant Conservation.

African black rhino

Population: The population has been reduced from perhaps several hundred thousand at the start of the century to less than 2,500 by the early 1990s - with an estimated drop of 97 percent since the 1960s.

Reason for extinction: Hunting and clearing of land for settlement and agriculture. Poaching of rhinos and the illegal trade in their horns are the main threats to all African rhinos, despite an international ban on the trade.

Circle of life: The Black rhino's mobile lips help keeps shrubs in check, and if they are not there to eat them, they likely become overgrown nuisance to other organisms. Rhinos also trample their droppings into the soil and this acts as a fertiliser.

How you can help: More than 1,000 rhinos were illegally killed in three years. Help stop wildlife poaching and illegal trade with volunteer projects such as Zimbabwe Black Rhino and Elephant Conservation.

Amur leopard

Population: Around 30 individuals.

Reason for extinction: The Amur leopard is poached largely for its beautiful, spotted fur, and agriculture and villages surround the forests where the leopards live.

Circle of life: The Amur leopard is important ecologically, economically and culturally. Conservation of its habitat benefits other species, including Amur tigers and prey species like deer.

How you can help: Help stop illegal wildlife trade.

Giant panda

Population: There are around 1,600 giant pandas remaining in the wild, now confined to forest areas high in the mountains of south-western China.

Reason for extinction: Forest destruction reduces pandas' access to the bamboo they need to survive. Also human activity and the development for China's growing human population.

Circle of life: Pandas play a crucial role in the bamboo forests where they roam by spreading seeds and facilitating growth of vegetation.

How you can help: Volunteer with Frontier on our China Panda Breeding Center to help conserve and protect pandas by increasing population numbers.

Marine turtles

Population: There are seven different species of marine turtles and six of these are classified as endangered or critically endangered. The long time to reach maturity and the many natural dangers faced by hatchlings and juveniles mean that as few as one in 1,000 eggs will survive to adulthood.

Circle of life: Poaching, changes in habitat, climate change, human activity and tens of thousands of marine turtles die each year when they become trapped in fishing, shrimping nets and hooks.

Purpose on earth: They help maintain the health of sea grass beds and coral reefs that benefit commercially valuable species such as shrimp, lobster and tuna.

How you can help: Volunteer with Frontier on one of our many Marine Conservation Projects to survey turtles, help them hatch safely and preserve their habitat.

Mountain gorilla

Population: There are only around 790 mountain gorillas surviving in the wild.

Reason for extinction: Habitat loss and poaching. Diseases transmitted from humans are also a vital factor of the extinction of the mountain gorilla; mountain gorillas can even die from the common cold!

Circle of life: Protecting mountain gorillas ensures vibrant forests and livelihoods for local people too.

How you can help: Improving livelihoods, encouraging sustainable use of resources, and tackling other local issues via a range of community initiatives.

Polar bear

Population: There are an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 wild polar bears in the world, living in 19 sub-populations.

Reason for extinction: Industrial activities in the Arctic and climate change is the biggest threat to the polar bear, as it's affecting the Arctic sea ice that many polar bears need in order to hunt for food and raise their young. Polar bears eat most of their food (mainly seals) while on the sea ice during spring and early summer. So getting access to enough food at this time is vital.

Circle of life: Polar bears are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment.

How you can help: The first step is to tackle the climate change - the most important step to protect polar bears is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible in part for the melting of the polar bears' sea ice habitat. The second step is to address the direct threats from shipping, fishing, and oil and gas activities, particularly in the Norwegian and Russian Arctic regions of the Barents Sea.

Every animal on the planet holds a unique place and a role within the ecosystem and if one disappears, balance is lost affecting other species that it feeds on or that feed on it. So what you learned from Mufasa twenty years ago is actually a worthy lesson. All animals are interconnected and depend on one another to survive. That is the circle of life!

By Nanna Påskesen Find out more about volunteering on wildlife conservation projects that aim to protect endangered species and their natural habitats.

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