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Have you read about endangered species, protected species, or extinct species in the newspapers? Have you seen programs about them on the television? What does it mean? Dinosaurs are extinct. That means they aren't living any more. (Of course, reptiles are descendants of dinosaurs, and the Kimodo Dragon might actually be a dinosaur!) We don't have to worry about some huge creature stepping on an apartment building and squashing all the people inside it, because earth no longer gives dinosaurs a home. The scientists are unsure what it was that caused the dinosaurs to die.

We know now how we can make certain animals become extinct. We just kill them all. We have weapons that can kill any animal. If we killed enough of any one kind of animal, there would not be any of its species. It would be extinct. People who wanted furs killed so many buffalo in our country, that the buffalo almost became extinct. Many animals that have fur which people wanted faced extinction in the past. The rhinoceros faces extinction today because, even though it is against the law, people are killing them just to take their horns. Poachers (people who kill animals when it is against the law) kill elephants just to get their tusks. Many ostriches and other beautiful birds were killed just to get a few pretty feathers to decorate their clothes. Dolphins are often caught in nets spread for tuna, and since they are mammals and can't breathe under water, they drown. There are far more tuna than there are dolphins, and they breed easily. Dolphins, although larger and smarter than tuna, are in some ways more fragile, and are likely to become extinct.

We can also kill animals by destroying their environment. In some areas of South America, for instance, the rain forests are being cut down and burned. This destroys the environment for many, many species of plants and animals. If there isn't a home for these animals, or the proper medium in which the plants native to that area can grow, there won't be food or safe places to live; they will not breed, and before you know it, they are gone. Forever.

When we put hazardous (dangerous) materials into the ocean, or the ground, or into the air (such as vapors or smoke from factories), we are destroying the environment, not only for jellyfish and whales, but for earthworms, pandas, birds, butterflies, trees, flowers, people, and all living things on earth.

I have a friend who, along with a group of other falconers, breeds falcons to put into the wild. Birds of prey are very important to our environment, as are birds that eat carrion. The State of California has an institution that is attempting to breed condors to put into the wild. There are only a very few condors left, so they are almost extinct.

Our assignment is to read about extinct animals and make a time-table showing when they became extinct. After that, we will read about endangered species, and protected species (plants and animals that aren't yet endangered, but are not breeding enough to keep up with natural losses). Many governments recognize the need to preserve our environment, and have started programs to clean our environment and to try and increase breeding of endangered and protected species. There are several organizations dedicated to conservation of our environment and species, as well. The library has publications that tell about these programs and organizations. Perhaps some of you will develop an interest in a certain species and try to help preserve it.

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