Many species of plants and animals on our planet are at risk, and in most cases they are threatened by human beings. The most common cause of extinction is loss of habitat — the places where wild animals and plants live are taken over or altered by people.
The most famous example of this is the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Every day vast areas of rainforest are cleared to make room for farms, roads and towns. Many thousands of species could be wiped out and lost forever unless the destruction of the forest is halted.
There are many other examples: the giant panda has been pushed out of large areas of its natural habitat in northern; the ploughing of the North American prairies has deprived the black-footed ferret of its home; and the Californian condor is being hunted to extinction by farmers.
Hunting has also being responsible for its skin and is now extinct in the wild. It survives only on crocodile farms in Thailand. The North American red wolf has suffered a similar fate: there are now very few left except in zoos.
Not all the news is bad, though; there are some success stories in conservation. A few years ago, the numbers of both elephants and rhinos in Africa were falling fast as a result if poaching. Now, thanks to better protection for the animals and a ban on the trade in rhino horn and elephant ivory, there are many more of them.
In the 1970s, Project Tiger was begun in an attempt to prevent tigers being hunted to extinction in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Eight large nature reserves were set up.
The tigers live there in safety, and the money paid by visitors to the reserves helps to pay for their running costs. Project Tiger has been a great success, although people are worried that tigers may once again be at risk from poachers.
One another animal that has been saved from extinction is Przwalski’s horse — the only remaining wild horse. There were only a few of them left when Prague Zoo began breeding them. Now their future is much more certain.
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