Today, many of us are aware that certain animals, such as the giant panda and the polar bear, are endangered species. What many might not realize, though, is that the endangered species list contains thousands of species, and they’re not all animals. Indeed, many of the species you’ll find on the list are plants!

Extinction is the complete disappearance of a species from the Earth. Dinosaurs are good examples of animals that are extinct and no longer roam the Earth.

Animals and plants that are at risk of becoming extinct because of threats from changing environments or predators are considered threatened or endangered.

An “endangered” species is any species in danger of extinction through all or a significant portion of its range. A “threatened” species is any species that is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) keeps track of endangered species around the world. As of 2006, the IUCN estimates that up to 40 percent of all organisms are endangered.

Thanks to concerned citizens and scientists worldwide, many nations have passed laws to protect and conserve endangered species. Some laws forbid hunting, while others restrict land development or create special preserves as endangered species habitats.

Unfortunately, not all endangered species obtain protection via special conservation laws. In fact, conservationists believe only a very few of the many threatened species benefit from protective laws, while many more species face the threat of extinction without the public taking notice.

In the United States, researchers believe the number of species threatened with extinction is 10 times greater than the number protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Some believe that governments have made it too hard for a threatened species to be added to the official list of endangered species in order to receive special protection. Although any person can ask the government to list a species as threatened or endangered, the listing process can take more than two years to complete.

Scientists must establish the conservation status of a species, which is an estimate of the chance of a species not living. Researchers must take many factors into account, such as the number remaining, the decrease in population over time, breeding rates, environmental and predatory threats, etc.

Despite these challenges, progress has been made. More than 195 countries around the world have signed an accord, agreeing to create biodiversity action plans to protect endangered and other threatened species.

In the United States, these plans are usually called “species recovery plans” and are developed according to guidelines in the Endangered Species Act.

Experts with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Program design recovery plans to reverse the decline of threatened or endangered species. Overall, the Endangered Species Act has been widely recognized by wildlife scientists as an effective tool in the battle against extinction.

Supporters of the Endangered Species Act believe it has been very successful in slowing the decline of threatened and endangered species. For example, 19 species have been delisted and recovered, and 93 percent of listed species in the northeastern part of the country have a recovering or stable population.


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    • That’s such a nice thing to say, Catherine! We are SO glad you are a Wonder Friend and that you liked this Wonder of the Day!

  1. Guess what? I am doing a research project on endangered and threatened species and here are some awesome ways to help! 1)Plant a tree. 2)If you know someone who owns a farm, ask them to save patches of bush and dead trees, (especially the ones that have hollows)for homes. 3)Put in a birdbath for the neighborhood birds. 4) Put in a birdfeeder for the neighborhood birds.

    • Thanks for sharing all these GREAT tips for helping birds and other animals, Moonlight! We sure are proud of you for doing what you can to help and for encouraging others to do the same! :-)

  2. Your website is awesome… friend “moonlight” is in my class and it is true that she did a research project on it….she did a excellent job. :)

    • We’re glad you like Wonderopolis, Sunlight! You are a GREAT friend for saying such a nice thing about Moonlight’s research project! :-)

  3. Wow!
    That was a sad video!
    I definitely did not know that sharks and elephants where endangered.
    I never would have guessed sharks, though, just because not a lot of things eat sharks-but now that I think about it I have neighbors that went on vacation and they said that they ate shark meat! Honestly, I thought that was weird, but then they said lots of people eat sharks there. But, then with the elephants, I could understand why they’re going endangered, because of their tusks. Just wondering, it said that in 2006, 40% of animals were endangered, but what about today? I wonder whether the number of endangered animals has grown or shrunk?
    Do you know? Because I certainly don’t.
    I learned a lot, so thanks a lot!
    I’ll try to comment later!

    • What a WONDERful comment you left for us, Leah! We think all the extra thinking and WONDERing you did about this Wonder of the Day® is GREAT! We’re also glad to hear that you learned some new things. We agree, the video is sad. It is super sad to know that there are so many endangered animals out there in the world. We will have to do a bit more exploring to find out what percentage of animals are endangered today compared to 2006. Thanks for being such an AWESOME Wonder Friend! :-)

    • We wish more people in the world had your WONDERful attitude about saving endangered species, Rishita! Thank you for sharing your comment with us today! :-)

  4. That video made me sad. The way the video influenced you was powerful. I can’t imagine a world without those animals in it. In my zoo (the Columbus Zoo), there are these frogs in the reptile house that are really close to extinction. They are called Golden Frogs. When I look at those frogs it makes me sad that someday they all may be gone. I would like to help endangered species.

    • We think you have a super big heart to care deeply for all the endangered species, Wyatt! Thanks so much for choosing this Wonder of the Day® to explore. It is wonderful that you made a personal connection to it, too! :-)

  5. Hi this video made me cry because my favourite animal are chimpanzees and I already knew that chimpanzees are endangered. Did you know that if all animals are dead and the people will die because we NEED animals to help us to survive. And I am an animals lover and I already knew that animals in the video are endangered. It’s really sad because: They hunt animals just for medicine, decorations, fur not meat but some people kill animals for meat and other reasons. :( :( :( :( :( :( :( :(

    • Hey there, Monkey Geek! We’re upset to hear about endangered animals, too. We hope that we will hear more about animals living freely and in their natural habitats, but it’s important that we understand why some animals are endangered. Thanks again fro WONDERing with us! :)

    • Hi there, Leah! Thanks for WONDERing about endangered species with us today– we think it’s great that you want to do your part to save animals who are in danger of extinction. We hope you continue to Wonder about animals and their safety! :)

  6. “Thanks to concerned citizens and scientists worldwide, many nations have passed laws to protect and conserve endangered species. Some laws forbid hunting, while others restrict land development or create special preserves as endangered species habitats.”

    Let’s hope that will save the animals, I am a big fan of polar bears, tigers, monkeys, and cheetahs, I do not want them to be history! :(

  7. Don’t you think it’s boring seeing giant pandas on TV and books? Do you want to see giant pandas in real life? There should be giant pandas in New Zealand, which will be way cooler.

    Firstly, New Zealand isn’t that hot or isn’t that cold so giant pandas will love the weather here. They will also love New Zealand’s habitat because of the clean air and the fresh water. We have cleaner water here, so the giant pandas will drink cleaner water instead of dirty water.

    Secondly, New Zealand is a safer country compared to the other countries. New Zealand has lesser harmful stuff that will hurt the giant pandas. People from all around the world will visit New Zealand to see the giant pandas.

    Thirdly, they are cute, cuddly, fluffy, gentle and less scary than bears. They look like a big, cuddly teddy bear. Don’t you just want to hug it?

    Lastly, do you feel jealous when you see other people on TV that gets to see giant pandas in real life? Don’t you wish that was you who saw the giant pandas in real life?

    Giant pandas are endangered animals they are very close from being extinct. There are only about 1000 of them left, because people use to kill giant pandas for money. They have been on earth for over 3 million years. Giant pandas have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell. They would not survive without bamboo. An adult giant panda will eat about 12 kilograms of bamboo each day, they spend about 12 hours a day eating. They have up to 11 different sounds for different situations. A newborn panda is tiny compared to its mother, she is about 900 times heavier, and they are about 15cm long when they are born. Giant pandas milk is rich and fatty, so her baby grows fast. Do you think giant pandas look like a bear or a raccoon? For over 100 years scientists weren’t sure which family they belong to. New research shows that giant pandas are more closely related to bears.

    We should have giant pandas in New Zealand now, we can’t wait any longer or else they are going to be extinct. Giant pandas need a peaceful place to live, then why not New Zealand?

    This is my speech on pandas. It was when I was 12 years old… please tell me if you like it. :)

    • We are so glad you’ve been thinking about endangered species with us, Joyce! Thanks for sharing your comment about pandas and your enthusiasm for saving them, too! We are really proud of you! Thank you for sharing your speech about pandas! :)

    • Hey there, Anne! We are so glad you’ve been thinking about animals that are endangered. Perhaps you can do some more WONDERing of your own and research a group that supports pandas and their existence. We are so glad you shared your comment with us- we’re very proud of you and your awareness! :)

    • Hi Brenna, thanks for sharing your thoughts. We are glad you’re thinking about animals and how it’s important to treat them well. Nice work, Wonder Friend! :)

  8. Who would kill such animals? Only the ones that hurt you, like sharks I get, but dodo birds and penguins and birds?

    • We agree, ll lezon! It really is sad that people kill defenseless animals. Yet, a lot of animals become endangered because their homes are being destroyed by humans. We think that is sad, too. Thanks for sharing with us today, Wonder Friend! :-)

    • We agree, ll lezon! It is sad, but some people may actually rely on certain animals for food. That may be a reason why they would kill some animals. Thanks for sharing with us today! :-)

  9. I learned a lot from this video. I learned things like there are plants on the endangered list and there are insects on it too. I also learned that there is International Union for Conservation of Nature that puts all the endangered animals, plants, and insects on list. Also that there are all these laws are put in order to protect the animals. Why do people have to kill the animals anyway? It doesn’t make sense.

    • Thanks for sharing your WONDERful summary with us today, E Perez! It sounds like you learned a lot from this Wonder! Way to go, Wonder Friend! Great question, too! There are lots of reasons why animals die, and become endangered. For example, if we clear a forest for a housing development, we could be taking away the habitat of certain animals, and they have no where else to go. It is sad. Yet, sometimes we don’t realize what we’ve done until it is too late. Thanks for WONDERing with us today, Wonder Friend!

  10. This article has taught me a lot about endangered species. I did not know how many species were on the list. I am so disappointed that the world has done stuff like this. I did learn that many corporations are trying their best to save many species. Yet from our growing population and the rise of many predators. I am afraid that many species may not live to see the year of 2100.

    • WONDERful, C.Clark! It sounds like you learned a lot from this Wonder. It really is sad that we can’t save all of the animals, yet we hope they can make it. Thanks for sharing this comment with us today! :-)

  11. I never thought this deeply into this subject. Most people are selfish and don’t care about other animals or the environment! The video was very touching. I’m sure it would convince others to help out. I still have one question. What happens when the specie is extinct? Do they try to recreate it or something?

    • We think it is WONDERful that you are thinking so deeply about endangered species, Karolina! Unfortunately, once an animal becomes extinct there is nothing we can really do to bring it back. Thanks for sharing with us today!

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Have you ever wondered…

  • How does a species become endangered?
  • How many species are on the endangered species list?
  • What can you do to help protect endangered species?

Wonder Gallery

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Try It Out

Since plants and animals can’t vote, they must rely on caring humans to enact laws and take other positive steps to protect endangered species. Wondering how your family can help? Check out these ways you can help endangered species.

You probably don’t have any giant pandas or polar bears where you live, but you might be surprised to find out how many endangered species call your state home. Explore the list of endangered species native to your home state.

The artist in you might be interested in these endangered animal coloring pages. You can display them or share them with your friends to promote awareness of endangered or threatened species.


Still Wondering

If you want to learn more about endangered species, visit National Geographic Xpeditions’ People and Endangered Species lesson. It gives an overview of some endangered species and how human activities contribute to their endangerment.


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