Endangered Animals Research: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Tawnya Eash

Tawnya has a master's degree in early childhood education and teaches all subjects at an elementary school.

Many humans recognize that change is needed to protect a great number of plants and animals from becoming endangered, or even worse, extinct. This lesson is going to discuss some of the major factors that are leading animals to become endangered, with one of the main ones being humans.

Endangered Species

In 1978, approximately 1,000 Sumatran tigers lived in Sumatra, Indonesia. Today, fewer than 400 remain. This puts the Sumatran tiger on the critically endangered species list because of its risk of becoming extinct.

Endangered species need help to prevent extinction. If a plant or animal is extinct, there are no known species of that organism left. You can't help an animal that does not exist.

Look at the chart to view other endangered species.

Endangered Species
Endangered Species

As you see, some plants and animals are in serious trouble. Let's find out why.

Natural Causes

Some of the factors causing animals to become endangered or extinct are natural causes which are out of human control. Let's take a look.

Climate Changes

Severe weather can cause prolonged periods of climates that are cooler or warmer than what a species is adapted for. Warmer climates can allow diseases and epidemics to grow rampant.

Changes in Sea Level or Currents

Warmer temperatures are causing freshwater icecaps to melt. This melting, along with rises in the ocean floor, creates a higher sea level. Animals used to dry habitats now have to try to adapt to wet lands.

Currents also change from melting freshwater. Salt water is denser so it sinks to a lower level. Animals that live in the salt water now have to adapt to the lower level of water.

Asteroids and Cosmic Radiation

Scientists believe that the extinction of the dinosaurs was caused by a very large asteroid impact. Smaller asteroids do hit the earth regularly and can damage parts of the food web.

Radiation comes from outer space and the Sun. Cosmic radiation is powerful and could even affect an animal's genetic make-up resulting in weaker species for future generations.

Although natural factors lead to endangered species, humans have the largest impact.

Human Causes

Although not always the intention, humans create a much quicker path to extinction. Let's see how.

Overpopulation

Population around the world is growing. Take a look at the chart to see the population growth in the U.S. alone.

Growth of U.S. Population
Population

Because there are more people, deforestation and pollution have a major affect on species. Deforestation is when a large area of trees are cut down. While this creates homes and businesses for humans, it causes habitat loss for animals.

Pollution is anything harmful that is put into the air. Sometimes you can actually see the smog, or mix of pollutants in the air, around large cities.

Take a look at the image that illustrates examples of what people have done that put plant and animal lives at risk.

Pictures of Human Causes
Human causes

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