Endangered Species Day
the third Friday in May (since 2006)
United States Senate on April 5th, 2006
The United States Congress created Endangered Species Day in 2006 with the adoption of Senate Resolution 431. The resolution encouraged "the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide." It also encouraged schools to spend at least 30 minutes teaching students about the day; encouraged groups such as businesses, organizations, private landowners and agencies to collaborate on educational information for the schools; and encouraged people of the United States "to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities." In short, the day is for learning why it's important to protect endangered species, for learning how to take part in protection efforts, and for celebrating species that have recovered as a result of these efforts.
Each year, events are held on the day and throughout the month in places such as zoos, parks, aquariums, museums, wildlife refuges, schools, and botanical gardens. There are often speakers, tours, exhibits, and children's activities. Every year, there is also a National Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest, where students in grades K-12 learn about endangered or threatened wildlife and support conservation with their art.
Conservation efforts have helped with the recovery of many species, such as the gray wolf, gray whale, grizzly bear, whooping crane, Kirtland's warbler, and peregrine falcon. Some animals, such as the gray wolf, bald eagle, and American alligator have recovered in large part because of the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973. In general, species are saved by the combination of research, coordination, intensive management of conservation efforts, increased public awareness, and education. Human awareness is important because many of the main drivers of extinction of species are caused by humans. Some of the leading causes of extinction are overhunting, overfishing, global warming, pollution, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species does the most comprehensive worldwide accounting of threatened species, by listing plants, animals, fungi, and algae. Species can be listed between "near threatened" and "extinct," with "endangered" being in the middle. Over 27,000 plants and animals are listed as threatened with extinction, appearing somewhere on the scale. In the United States, the Endangered Species Act determines how threatened species are classified, and species are usually assessed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. About 700 animal species and 900 plant species are threatened or endangered in the country. Because of the many threats that species face, it is fitting there is an Endangered Species Day.
How to Observe
Today should be centered around learning about threats to species, becoming educated on how you can help to protect species and then working to help them, and celebrating species that have been recovered. There are many ways these things can be done, as well as other ways the day can be celebrated!
- Learn about endangered species at the websites of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Learn about some of the issues that species face that cause them to become endangered, such as overhunting, overfishing, global warming, pollution, habitat fragmentation, and invasive species.
- Find an event to attend. Many often take place at zoos, parks, aquariums, museums, wildlife refuges, schools, and botanical gardens. Check in your community or online for events.
- Host an event. Use the online toolkit to help you with your planning.
- Donate to groups that support conservation efforts, such as the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the World Wildlife Fund, the Defenders of Wildlife, and the National Wildlife Federation.
- Learn about some endangered species that have recovered.
- If you are a teacher, implement information about endangered species into your lessons today. If you are a young person, participate in the National Endangered Species Day Youth Art Contest (the deadline to enter precedes the day). If you are a college student, read some online suggestions on how to celebrate the day.
- Watch an environmental film, a documentary about endangered animals, or a film about endangered species from the Video Project.
- Read a book about endangered species.