Animals (or plants) that are endangered are in danger right now of becoming EXTINCT (which means they would no longer exist) and need our IMMEDIATE attention and protection! In New Jersey there are 42 animal species currently listed as endangered.
Then what does it mean when you say a species is THREATENED?
When an animal or plant is listed
it means that it may become endangered if steps are not taken to
protect it. It is a kind of warning that there is a problem. Some
animals, such as the American Bald Eagle, were listed as threatened
and then became endangered. After action was taken to protect them
and reestablish them is areas where they were endangered, they were
moved back to the threatened list. That is a good sign! It means they
are "coming back" from the brink of extinction. This is especially
true of the bald eagle in New Jersey.
Though we do not address them on this web site, some species are classified as "VULNERABLE" - this means that a species is of special concern because its numbers or habitat conditions are such that it might become threatened soon. An example would be the diamondback terrapin.
What we want to be able to say is that a species is "STABLE" - its numbers are at a good level and the conditions for its survival are good.
When all the members of a species have died, that species is extinct. It means that species will never return.
pigeon is a species that is now extinct. The last one died
The passenger pigeon is a species that is now extinct. The last one died in 1914.
Extinction is a natural part of
life on this planet. But when extinctions are caused by the actions
of people, we upset that natural order. It is estimated that 3
species of plant or animal life become extinct every hour of every
day on our planet. More than 30 species become extinct while you
sleep at night. That means that more than 20,000 species reach
extinction every year. We often hear of extinctions that occur
because of the cutting & burning of rainforests.
Sometimes a species disappears from an area - such as a state - but occurs elsewhere - that is called EXTIRPATED. For example, wolves have been long extirpated from New Jersey. Until recently, we thought the Indiana bat was extirpated from NJ, but now it is listed as endangered because it exists in very small numbers in the state.
Some animals that are gone from the Earth forever include: the quagga (a zebra-like animal that lived in South Africa until 1883), the American Xerxes blue butterfly (extinct since the 1940's), the passenger pigeon, and sea sparrow.
The sea sparrow is now extinct.