By Sammy Caiola
Native Foods Cafe
Earlier this month, Rusty the Red Panda- an adorable
copper-colored, wet-nosed rascal- escaped from the National Park Zoo and
wandered the streets of Washington DC, drawing the entire nation’s attention in
news outlets and social media alike. People everywhere stopped their day-to-day
routines to check in on Rusty, which is kind of an anomaly considering how fast
the world moves these days.
Native foods Cafe vegan restaurant uses this photo courtesy of Fox News.
Rusty’s escape does help to bring the issue of endangered
animals to the public eye- as Rusty was one of less than 10,000 of his kind
still on the planet. But the reality is there are animals out there who are far
more endangered and get far less attention. Today, using information gathered
from PETA, the World Wildlife Foundation and National Geographic, I’d like to
introduce you to a few endangered species who you might not be paying attention
just 20 years ago, the saola (pronounced sow-la) is still a bit of a mystery to
science, but there’s no question about the need to keep it alive. It has two
parallel 20-inch horns and beautiful facial markings, causing some to call it
the “Asian unicorn”. Though its current population is unknown (there aren’t even
any in captivity), they have been spotted (and hunted!) in Vietnam and Laos. Can
you believe people are actually killing these rare beauties?
Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy
of the World Wildlife Foundation.
Northern Sportive Lemur:
Unfortunately, this buggy-eyed guy is one of about 100 species of
Madagascar-native lemurs whose populations are falling far too quickly, mostly
due to forest logging and illegal hunting. The most recent report says there
are only 20 of these little cats left (they weigh less than two pounds each),
so protecting them is crucial.
Native Foods uses this photo courtesy of
Little Dodo bird:
Though the normal-sized dodo bird went extinct a few years back, there’s still
time to help out its little cousin. Just a few hundred of these birds still
reside on the islands of Samoa but are dwindling quickly due to habitat loss.
Native Foods Café uses this image courtesy of
Mekong giant catfish:
The ever-growing demand for seafood has put this 600-pound sea-dweller in rough
waters. While they once thrived in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, their
population is down to just a few hundred, some of whom are protected. Their
biggest threat is illegal fishing. I can’t even find a photo of this creature
in its natural habitat- only flopping in some fisherman’s arms or splayed out
on a kill deck.
African Wild Dog: These
furry friends don’t look all that different from our companions at home, but
they don’t enjoy anywhere near that much love and protection. There are a few
thousand left in South American and East Africa, but targeted killings and the
claiming of land for agriculture will bring that number down soon enough.
Native Foods Café uses this photo courtesy of the World
How Can We Help?
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to help these vulnerable
animals. The World Wildlife Foundation has a famous “symbolic
adoption” program, whereby you choose an endangered species to help and
they send you pictures and plush toys of “your animal”, though you really are
helping the organization to save many animals. This is a great option for kids,
who will love naming and connecting with their own endangered animal.
On a more tangible level, there are a number of products you
can purchase whose proceeds go partially toward protecting endangered species:
Species Chocolate: This fair trade company sells delicious shade-grown
chocolate and donates 10% of proceeds to conservation efforts. PLUS there are
pictures and info about endangered species on every wrap. The dark varieties
are vegan and can be purchased in pouches for $3.29
Hello Green Tomorrow Reusable Water Bottle: 100% of proceeds from this
$2.50 water ball go to the World Wildlife Foundation’s restoration efforts in
Donation Animals: Head into Build-A-Bear Workshop with your little one and
have them stuff and dress their very own endangered animal to take home. $1
from each stuffed animal goes to the World Wildlife Fund.
Don’t forget that there are hundreds of endangered animals
beyond the ones mentioned here, including the big guys like Bornean elephants,
Sumatran tigers, giant pandas, polar bears, lowland gorillas, dolphins and
leatherback turtles. If we stay informed and spread the word about these
suffering animals, we can work to get the endangered populations to a healthy,
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