Why Do Species Become Extinct?

We are in the middle of the 6th Extinction…


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TheWorldCounts, 30 June, 2014

We are in the middle of the 6th Extinction…

Mass extinction is a very rare event. The most well-known extinction is when the dinosaurs were wiped off the face of the earth, but prior to that there were other extinctions. In fact, before humans arrived on the planet, 99.9% of all species that have existed have already become extinct. In those days, extinctions happen naturally over a long span of time. Climate change, changes in sea levels and currents, diseases, and the spread of invasive species are natural triggers which can cause the demise of some species. In our present time, it’s a different story.

If you’ve ever asked yourself, “Why do species become extinct?” you might not like the hard truth. But the fact is we humans are driving a large number of species to extinction. The majestic Mountain Gorilla, the Sumatran Tiger, the Rhino, the Bluefin Tuna are all in the endangered species list. Even the mighty Lion is threatened.

How are we making it happen? What are the factors that are endangering the balance of life? Scientists are predicting that half of all our plants and animals will be extinct by 2100. Here are the reasons;

Animals and plants are losing their homes

Habitat destruction is the number one driver of species extinction. When we demolish a forest in a certain area, we have doomed all the living things thriving in that environment. When we cut off rivers with dams or build roads through a forest, we are destroying ecosystems.

Where will they live? Do we bother to relocate them? Is that even possible? Maybe the big animals which we can see, yes. But more often than not, we don’t bother.

Deforestation has killed off more species than we can identify. To date, we have destroyed around 13 million hectares of forest, home to thousands of species big and small. We are destroying forests to supply the ever growing needs of our civilization for wood, paper, and other materials that come from our trees. Due to deforestation, we are driving the Mountain Gorillas away from their habitat and they are unable to handle the stress of having to cope.

More: How Can We Stop Deforestation?

We are Overhunting and Overharvesting

Hunting and harvesting are necessary activities of humans. We need to eat and survive. If this were our only reasons, the planet can probably sustain us. It can reproduce and sustain us with a steady supply. But we are overharvesting some species, like the Bluefin Tuna, the Whales and Sharks and some species of fish. These species are unable to reproduce fast enough to meet our needs.

More: Causes of Extinction of Species

The Tiger is being hunted to extinction, not as food but for its beautiful skin and its organs which are seen as medicinal in some Asian countries. The same is true for the Rhino whose horns are also believed to be medicinal and for the Elephant whose tusks are made of precious ivory.

We are no longer hunting them as food alone. They are the source for some of our products. Most of these products we don’t even really need.

There’s someone new in the neighborhood

Unknowingly and knowingly, we introduce new species to an ecosystem where these newcomers prey on the native species or compete with them for their food. An example is when people accidentally bring in pests from one country to another. These pests have no natural predators in their new environment so they can spread very fast and destroy the balance of their habitat.

There are just too many Humans

Our exploding population is another main driver of species extinction. The causes listed above are compounded thousands of times by our ever growing number. We are competing for space, over-utilizing and our insatiable need are just overwhelming the other living things living on our planet.

More: Animals That Are Becoming Extinct

What can we do about it?

We are facing a biodiversity crisis, there’s no doubt about it. We are in the middle of a 6th Extinction known as the Holocene Extinction. Conservationists are doing what they can through carefully planned breeding programs. Governments are helping by banning illegal fishing practices and poaching.

You can also help. We can leave the big tasks to the scientists, but you can make a difference in a big way. We are not totally helpless. We can co-exist.

  • Be kind to our Environment. Lower your ecological footprint.
  • Don’t buy products that are made from animals that are endangered. Don’t encourage this practice. If you don’t buy, they won’t sell.
  • Buy wood products from a sustainable source. Look for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Don’t waste so much!

Read more stories on our environment and what you can do to help at The World Counts: Stories


  1. Wikipedia: Extinction
  2. National Geographic: Extinct in our Lifetime
  3. WWF: What we can do

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