“Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons; trees still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. But a few decades hence only the oldest oaks will remember, and at long last only the hills will know.”
—Aldo Leopold, “On a Monument to the Pigeon,” 1947
In this excerpt, Aldo Leopold (a renowned ecologist, conservationist, and author), talks about the fast decline of the once numerous passenger pigeon. In 1871 there were over 136 million breeding passenger pigeon adults and less than 50 years later the entire species was extinct. (1) Why did this happen at such an alarming rate? The answer is sadly quite simple in this case, humans hunted passenger pigeons to extinction.
In our lifetimes, multiple species have, and will go from being threatened, to endangered, to finally extinct like the passenger pigeon. Though extinction is a natural process, it is being accelerated by humans. The recently released United Nations Biodiversity Report confirms that over 1 million of the 9 million known species on our planet are threatened with extinction. They ranked the major drivers of species decline as land conversion, including deforestation, overfishing, bush meat hunting and poaching; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species. What can we do?
Photo: Jay Pierstorff
Here at the Desert Museum we are charged with inspiring people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert. We hope that once you leave our gates you have gained some insight into why it is crucial to be an advocate for these incredible animals (and plants!) and what they offer us and our planet. We also participate in species recovery programs with local agencies and with zoos around the world.
One of the endangered animals you can see here is the Mexican gray wolf. Gray wolves are considered to be elegant predators and highly social animals that form tight, nuclear packs. These majestic creatures are a symbol of the wilderness and the predecessors to our domesticated dogs. The Mexican Gray Wolf, though once common throughout the southwest, is now the rarest subspecies of gray wolf in the United States due to over hunting, and was almost entirely eliminated in the 1970s.
Photo: Robert Leaver
But fear not, there is hope.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started efforts to conserve this species in 1977 and were able to release captive raised wolves into the wild in 1998. As of April 2019 the “recent wolf count indicates that the population of Mexican wolves has increased by 12% since last year, raising the total number of wolves in the wild to a minimum of 131 animals. …(The) 131 wolves are nearly evenly distributed – 64 wolves in Arizona and 67 in New Mexico.” (2)
Photo: Robert Leaver
Humans can sometimes reverse the damage they have (usually unknowingly) done. Be an advocate for the those who can’t speak for themselves. Do we want our children, the literal future of our existence, to live without the presence of these majestic creatures? Or, don’t these animals have the right to simply exist? What can YOU do to help endangered animals?
- Support legislation that helps protect plants and animals, wildlife corridors, and crucial habitat.
- Learn all about the animals that are threatened and endangered in your state, help spread to the information you learn to friends and family!
- Shop smart
- Avoid products with palm oil to help animals like orangutans! You can download the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo app to scan products while you are shopping – it’s super easy!
- Once you’ve figured out the native endangered species in your area, find out how you directly help them! You can volunteer and support the Museum’s mission through: https://www.desertmuseum.org/about/volunteer.php
- Plant native plants, especially pollinator plants to help encourage and support your local flora and fauna.
Endangered Species Day is May 17th and we hope that you take a moment to educate yourself on how you can help endangered species! Want to support the Mexican Gray Wolves at the Desert Museum? Symbolically adopt (http://www.desertmuseum.org/adoptions/) one today and help us provide the highest quality care to these captivating creatures!
Written by: Lauren Belcher, ASDM Media & Marketing Specialist
(1) Yeoman, Barry. “Why the Passenger Pigeon Went Extinct.” Audubon, 13 Apr. 2016, http://www.audubon.org/magazine/may-june-2014/why-passenger-pigeon-went-extinct.
(2) “Southwest Region.” Official Web Page of the U S Fish and Wildlife Service, http://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/mexicanwolf/.