Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to celebrate and learn about endangered species and how to protect them.
Over the next six days, WPC will be putting the spotlight on Canadian species who are already endangered, or are becoming endangered, and desperately need our help.
To kick off Endangered Species Week, we wanted to share 5 Interesting Facts you may not know about endangered species in Canada and abroad.
1. How many species are endangered in Canada?
Many people have heard of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the United States because it makes the headlines regularly. But what is the Canadian equivalent?
Canada passed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2002 to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct. The act provides a way to recover endangered species that are at varying stages of ‘risk’ as a result of human activity (here is the full act if you are interested).
Part of the implementation of SARA is the work done by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which reviews the status of thousands of species considered at risk here in Canada.
You can learn about all Canadian Species at Risk by browsing the SARA Registry. It’s a great resource to learn about the animals that are at risk in your area. Search by region, taxonomic group (i.e. birds, insects, mammals) and even status (i.e. endangered, threatened). You may see animals on there that you didn’t know were at risk!
The Karner blue butterfly is listed as Extirpated on the SARA Registry because it hasn’t been seen in Canada since 1991.
Poor recordkeeping and lack of remains mean that we don’t have a clear picutre of what the dodo actually looked like.
2. The dodo bird as an iconic symbol for endangered animals
The dodo, Raphus cucullatus, is one of the world’s most famous birds, despite being extinct for several hundred years. Many people think that the dodo was hunted into extinction because of its lack of intellect and agility, but recent discoveries have biologists thinking otherwise.
Click the link below to learn more about who the dodo bird really was and some of the new theories about why it became extinct.
Did you know? Wildlife Preservation Canada’s founder, Gerald Durrell, chose the dodo as our original logo to highlight the importance of conservation and as a warning that many more animals may face the same fate if we do not take action.
3. Endangered animals can be quite challenging to study
The challenge lies in the fact that there are not very many of them left which often makes them hard to find! At the same time, recovery plans require conservation biologists to understand about the behaviour and ecology of the species they are trying to save.
There was a recent sighting of the “unicorn of the sea”, an ornate eagle ray, in Australia. This ray species is so rare that the sighting was one of only 50 recorded sightings ever made for this species.
So how do biologists save animals they can’t see?
Often, a similar species will be used as a surrogate or ‘model species’ to develop recovery techniques that can then be adapted for the more endangered and elusive species. Wildlife Preservation Canada has used this method for many Canadian species, including some of our reptile and amphibian programs, and also with bumble bees, working with brown-belted bumble bees as a surrogate for yellow-banded bumble bees who are in decline.
Finding the right bumble bee species is like finding a needle in a haystack, even when you seem to have lots to choose from.
WPC Executive Director Lance Woolaver Jr working with the ploughshare tortoise recovery program in Madagascar.
4. Slow and steady wins the race
If we could wave a magic wand and instantly restore a species back to its natural state, many scientists would likely be glad to be out of work (metaphorically speaking of course). But, the reality is that bringing a species back from the brink of extinction, or stopping one that’s on a bad path, is painstaking and lengthy work.
Did you know that many of the successful endangered animal recovery programs have been running for decades? That means a young budding scientist could spend their entire career trying to save one or two species from going extinct (that’s dedication!).
A few of the most well-known long-term recovery programs include the California condor, ploughshare tortoise, and the New Zealand kakapo. These programs have been running for over 30 years, and these striking creatures are still with us and doing well because of that commitment.
5. A little goes a long way
While it may take six figures to maintain recovery programs for some of the more iconic endangered animals (think lions, tigers, and bears, oh my), many of the lesser known species in Canada can be part of recovery programs with much lower price tags.
Did you know that we can feed one western painted turtle for just $50 per year? If that turtle can make it to breeding age and add new individuals to the wild population, that’s a tremendous return on investment.
Wildlife Preservation Canada is proud to be the caretaker for many of Canada’s underdog species.
Our Conservation Program Director Jessica Steiner says it best,
“From the 4mm long Hungerford’s crawling water beetle, to Ontario’s only venomous snake, no species is too small, too scaly, too slimy, or unknown to be unworthy of our attention. They are all worth protecting!”
This little turtle has a lot riding on its shoulders once its released from our care into the wild.