The term “wildlife” refers to vertebrates that are not domesticated and includes wild animals, plants and other living things. Wild animals and plants have been domesticated for the benefit of human beings for years and this practice has a great impact on the environment, both positive and negative.
Wildlife is an element of ecology, which includes forests, plains, rain forests, deserts, grasslands and even urban locations. Each ecosystem has different forms of wildlife. Though the term wildlife is used to refer to animals that are undisturbed by human factors, most scientists agree that human activities have an impact on wildlife.
Humans have always had a controversial relationship with animals and wildlife. In some cultures, animals are regarded as sacred beings while in others they are offered as sacrifice. Animal activists have continued to raise their voice against animal exploitation for food, clothing and entertainment.
Wildlife conservation is an imperative as the list of endangered species grows year after year—with animals, plants and other organisms at risk of becoming extinct. Though the phrase is commonly used for any species at risk of extinction, conservation scientists define an endangered species based on those species that are referenced as such in the IUCN Red List. Currently, there are 2,655 plant and 3,079 animal species that are classified as endangered all over the world. In 1998, those numbers were 1,197 and 1,102 respectively. These figures have more than doubled within a mere 15 years.
There are hundreds of species worldwide facing the risk of extinction due to illegal wildlife trade, poaching, habitat loss, disease, human-wildlife conflict and many other factors. Many wildlife conservation organizations are working continuously to protect endangered species and their habitats. These organizations have their own goals; some of them working to protect specific species while others concentrate on protecting land and establishing environmental protection policies in their locality.
Certain animal species are at very high risk of extinction. Some wildlife conservation organizations have been established with a mission to protect critically endangered animal species. Following is an overview of some of these species, including the factors and conditions contributing to their demise, as well as a list of organizations and resources dedicated to their protection.