For many of us, it's easy to assume we know the basics about endangered animal species. But when you really stop to think about it, can you list a dozen (or even less) species that you know for a fact are endangered? It's more difficult than you might think.
And even if you're very familiar with a type of animal, it's possible they're endangered without you even realizing it. Take turtles, for example. They're sometimes pets, often portrayed in movies and TV, and for the most part, not exactly considered exotic.
But it's worth digging a little deeper when it comes to their survival — because there are serious problems.
According to new research published by Bioscience, there are 356 species of turtles in the world and approximately 61 percent of those are threatened or already extinct.
This makes turtles the most threatened major group of vertebrates — more than birds, mammals, fish or amphibians.
These numbers may shock you because, as the
BioScience paper echoes, turtles are everywhere. As humans, we're extremely familiar with the creatures. We're so familiar that the idea that they are dying out seems simply preposterous. But the statistics are very real, and they're very serious.
According to the paper, turtles are dying out because of reasons you may have heard before when it comes to other species: habitat destruction, unsustainable overexploitation for pets and food, and climate change.
A world without turtles is a scary one, as the animal plays a vital part of the ecosystem when it comes to soil, seafloors and seed germination.
When one part of an ecosystem dies out, it affects everything, and turtles are no different.
BioScience article lists conservation groups' focus on protecting birds and fish in certain areas (but not turtles) as a cause for their population decline, general environmental factors are also contributing to the problem.
As Sea Turtle Inc. points out, when it comes to one species of turtle, bad fishing practices, pollution/marine debris consumption, boat props, destruction of nests and Fibropapilloma (a contagious, herpes-like virus) are all greatly affecting the number of sea turtles in particular.
The site also points out that a decline in sea turtles affects the entire ocean system and food chain. This is a fact that applies to the decline of turtles overall.
Without turtles, the ocean simple doesn't function as well.
Recognition of that fact is one of the biggest ways to increase the value of a species, according to the
BioScience paper. Understanding just how important turtles are is, well, important. And it's perhaps the first, best step to making sure we protect the animal.