Humans share the planet with 8 million other species of plants and animals. We have a responsibility to future generations and all living things to protect the environment, so we can all thrive together. Protecting ecosystems and nature means protecting animals. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to help. Here are 11 ways.
1. Plant native species
Creating planet- and wildlife-friendly environments can start right in your own backyard and in your community. Plant native species of trees, bushes, and plants, especially those that flower and provide food sources for wild animals. Trees recycle oxygen, returning it to the atmosphere for us to breathe and absorbing potentially harmful gases along the way. Get involved in an organization that supports community trees like ACTrees, or learn how to plant your own.
It's also a good idea to think beyond the typical lawn, which can be a drain on water supplies and not offer much food or support for animal life. Allow your manicured lawn to go a little wild. Replace part of the lawn with vegetable or flower gardens filled with native species. Even a small garden can also have a big impact. Find out which species are native to your area.
2. Help the zoo or aquarium
Zoos and aquariums often have wildlife conservation efforts. Find out how you can volunteer to help spread the word about or work to support wild animals through the Association of Zoo Docents and Volunteers. Or get your office involved. Whether you want to liven up your next office videoconference or want to have a special visitor when you video chat with your family, the Cincinnati Zoo puts the zoo in Zoom. For a fee, you can get a 15-minute call with zoo stars like Fiona the hippopotamus or a group of wallabies or goats.
3. Make your yard a wildlife haven
In addition to planting native food sources for wildlife in your area, you can also help them create habitats by installing bird feeders, baths, and houses. In addition to giving birds necessary shelter and sustenance, watching the birds that visit can be very entertaining. The National Wildlife Federation has other suggestions to make your yard wildlife friendly.
4. Avoid harmful chemicals
In our efforts to spur lawn growth and control pests, we may turn to chemical solutions, which can be very harmful to wildlife like bees and butterflies that are helpful to the environment. Fertilizers usually find their way into water sources, polluting rivers, and streams, causing harmful algae blooms, and poisoning the aquatic life.Instead, opt for natural pest control to discourage critters in your garden, and organic fertilizers like animal manure or compost.
5. Pick up trash
Picking up trash not only protects the environment and keeps our surroundings beautiful, but it can also save wildlife. Plastic bags and twine can easily trap birds and other smaller animals, hurting or killing them or making them easy prey. So put on your gloves, grab some trash bags, and pick up litter to protect wildlife—and keep your neighborhood looking good.
6. Become a citizen scientist
Researchers who need help gathering wildlife and insect counts may turn to the public for help. This provides interesting and fun opportunities for you to lend a hand from home. For example, the Great Sunflower Project is studying bee populations around the country. To participate, you need a bit of a green thumb. The project asks that you plant and grow lemon queen sunflowers in your yard. Once they bloom, you count the number of pollinators that land on the sunflowers in five-minute segments.
Love lizards instead? Head on over to Zooniverse’s project center and count Galapagos Island iguanas from aerial photos, or help transcribe historical records to help scientists understand nesting patterns. The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology’s Nestwatch program is also looking for volunteers to report on the nesting habits of birds in their area. Take a test to get certified, then explore the outdoors around you and report back on the nests you find. Or sit back and log on to Penguin Watch to help count penguins in remote regions to help scientists better understand them.
7. Learn about endangered species
The Endangered Species Coalition helps identify endangered species and share how people can help to preserve them. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also has an endangered species website that shares information about endangered animals in the U.S. and how people can help them. Share what you learn on social media or get involved with a conservation organization.
8. Adopt an animal
Protect the animal of your choice—one either threatened by endangerment in a far-off land or by abandonment nearby.Defenders of Wildlife lets you symbolically adopt a wild animal of your choosing. Your donation goes to improving habitats, research, monitoring, and ultimately saving the species from endangerment. Make it a birthday gift for your animal fanatic friend!
9. Do your part
What animal rights issue troubles you the most? Poaching? Cruelty? Fur? Whatever it is, you can act. Humane Society and World Wildlife Fund can help you find out petitions to sign, bills to support and state representatives to write. By acting, you’ll give a voice to those who don’t have one.
Your gift to a trusted animal rights organization will be appreciated and well utilized. By supporting their concerted efforts, you play a valuable role in the protection of wildlife and in helping our planet thrive. You can also donate to local shelters in need. Many animal shelters and rescue centers lack the necessary provisions to keep animals healthy and safe. If you can’t adopt, giving your extra food and supplies—or volunteering—can be just as valuable in helping these shelters survive..
11. Understand human impact
Population increases pose a threat to wildlife as previous resources diminish. Whether it’s for science, food or greed, humans endanger animals, sometimes without considering the positive impact wildlife can have on the posterity of our planet. What can you do? Stay informed on the issues, know your impact in the ecosystem and take your part in protecting wildlife. Earth and its present and future habitants will be grateful.
You can also search for opportunities at Create the Good®.