Every third Friday in May, the US celebrates Endangered Species Day—a day set aside to draw attention to and share the importance of wildlife conservation and restoration efforts for all imperiled species.
Dr. Aaron Bauer, professor of Biology at Villanova University, holds the record for identifying and naming the most species of gecko found on the planet. Dr. Bauer reinforces the importance of the “national day,” pointing out that, “it is too easy for most people to forget about endangered species, especially when the state of human affairs is so pressing. Having a day to focus society on this particular problem is a good reminder that we are not alone on Earth.”
Dr. Bauer wants to use Endangered Species Day in 2021 to bring attention to species that people might not realize are endangered. He observes that “the tendency is for people to focus on the big charismatic organisms, like tigers, gorillas and whales. However, there are endangered species in every group of animals, plants and even fungi. These do not get enough attention because they lack the mass appeal of pandas and parrots, but raising awareness in general can help by generating support for agencies and projects devoted more broadly to conservation.”
So, which animals need our care and attention this Endangered Species Day?
“Scientists have become aware that amphibians, like frogs and salamanders, are in decline around the world,” says Bauer. “More than 30 years of research has demonstrated widespread declines, and today more than a third of their 7000+ species are threatened or endangered. Many more are too poorly known to even assess their conservation status. Many reptiles are likely in the same situation.”
According to Dr. Bauer, some animals are so under-studied, scientists can’t be sure which species are becoming endangered. “We know that many turtles and nearly all crocodilians are endangered, but we don’t know much about the situation for lizards and snakes, which make up the vast majority of the 11,000+ reptile species (especially because snakes are much maligned in popular culture).
So, how, with only one day of focus, can the average person make a difference for endangered species? Dr. Bauer recommends ‘starting them young.’ He calls activities at zoos and other public outreach organizations, “a wise investment of energy as kids that grow up knowing and caring about environmental issues, including endangered species, are likely to continue to care and to pass on their views in adulthood.”
Endangered Species Day is a reminder that a large percentage of the world’s biota is imperiled and, as stewards of the planet, it is our responsibility to try to improve their situation,” said Dr. Bauer. “Especially since we are mostly responsible for their current plight.”
To speak with Bauer, click on his headshot above or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aaron M. Bauer, PhD Professor and Gerald M. Lemole Endowed Chair in Integrative Biology
Aaron Bauer, PhD, is a leading expert on reptiles, with a specialty in geckos, systematics and biogeography.