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Ecosystems

Endangered species

Sunda pangolinSunda pangolin Animals have always experienced rises and falls in their numbers, and many species have become extinct through a long, natural process. Since humans came on to the scene, however, the rate of extinction among species of plants and animals has risen dramatically. Humans have hunted animals to extinction for food or sport, and have driven them from their natural habitats. Some of the best-known animals in the world today, such as the tiger or the gorilla, are in danger of extinction. Many lesser-known—but no less important—species are also under threat.

Amur leopardAmur leopard
The aye-aye of Madagascar, persecuted by local peopleThe aye-aye of Madagascar, persecuted by local people

Hunting

People have always hunted animals for food, but, unlike other predators, humans may pursue a single species ceaselessly until it has become extinct. Many kinds of whale almost became extinct during the 18th and 19th centuries, due to the high rate of hunting for their meat and oil. In a similar persecution, island animals, especially flightless birds that had no natural predators, proved easy targets for the first human settlers. With small populations and nowhere to retreat to, these animals were driven to extinction within a short time.
 

Relatives of the dodo are living on two Samoan islands in the Pacific Ocean today. But the Manumea bird, whose scientific name means "little dodo", and which is a distant relative of the famous extinct dodo, may soon be facing extinction itself, as only a few hundred survive.

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