I walk past this little panda graffito on my walk to and from work. It always makes me smile and reminds me of a question my 6-year-old asked when she was learning about rainforests at school: what does endangered mean?
The word ‘endangered’ means threatened with danger but we often use it when we are talking about plants and animals that are at risk of becoming extinct. Like pandas…
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has a list of endangered animals. You might be surprised at some of the animals that are on that list and you may have seen some of them if you’ve visited a zoo or a safari park.
The Giant Panda is on the WWF list. It was considered to be endangered for a long time but now it is described as a ‘vulnerable’ species, which means that wild pandas are still at risk. Although it is against the law to hunt pandas, they are sometimes killed by hunters looking for other animals. They find it difficult to make panda babies and the places where they live (their habitats) are being destroyed. There are now only about 1,800 pandas in the wild in the bamboo forests of China.
If the number of animals in a species drops too low, that species could become extinct. To become ‘extinct’ means that a species has died out – there are none of those animals left alive anywhere in the world. This is what happened to the dinosaurs and dodos and it is happening now to other types of creatures on Earth for a variety of different reasons.
That’s why charities like the WWF try to change people’s attitudes and behaviour and raise money to save endangered animals. Working to save endangered animals and protect their habitats is called ‘conservation’. Zoos can help with conservation by providing a safe home for endangered animals trying and helping them to have babies that can keep the species alive.