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Tree Frog

Why Endangered Wild Animals Are Like “Canaries in Coal Mines”

Have you ever heard of the phrase, “Like a canary in a coal mine”? It comes from a historic practice from coal mining history, when miners would take caged birds down into the mines. The birds were especially sensitive to dangerous gases, even more so than the men. So if the canary in the cage keeled over, the men knew they were in danger and had to leave the mine quickly.

It was an early warning system.

Today, many feel that endangered wild animals are like that. The loss of threatened species may mean that all of us are in danger. The world’s climate is warming, because of all the pollutants going into the air.

We are losing more wild areas – we have fewer mature forests, wetlands, prairies and savannahs, and other safe natural spots for wild animals – every day, every week, every month, every year.

The oceans are getting warmer, too, and more polluted with plastic waste.

So why should we care if a frog in Central America goes on the endangered species warning list? Or a black rhino in Africa? Or a giant salamander in China? Or a rare leopard in Russia?

Because we’re all connected! We are all dependent on the same air and water. We share this Earth.

It’s not a good sign if wild creatures are finding it harder and harder to survive.

For instance, scientists have identified 6,000 amphibian species in the world (frogs, etc.). That sounds great! But half of them are now in danger of extinction. Why? Because the Earth is becoming less wild, and more polluted.

monarch butterfly on milkweed plantAs another example, monarch butterflies are threatened by the loss of prairies, which have milkweed, the only plant that the monarchs will lay their eggs on. The main cause is probably the use of lots of herbicides (sprays to kill “weeds”).

So why to we care if these wild animals are endangered? Besides the basic idea that we should respect all life . . . what if these endangered animals are like our “canaries”? What if they are warning signs us that it’s crucial to do something to make our world healthier.

After all, we can’t just run out of this “coal mine.” We live in it. It’s our planet Earth.

So helping to protect wild animals, and worrying about the ones that are at risk, is important.

Here at the WAKA site, we want to share stories of kids who get involved in this effort. Instead of just worrying, let’s find way to get involved. There are things you can do to learn about wild animals – and take part in efforts to protect them.

One strong program for kids is the Jane Goodall program, Roots and Shoots.

It offers all sorts of great ways for kids (and teachers and parents) to get involved. Here are some sample programs from Roots and Shoots.

And around the world, there are kids involved in smaller-scale wild animal protection programs. Maybe you’re one of them. Those are the stories we hope to share here.

Together, we can make a difference.

Doyli and two monk sakis
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