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Whether you’ve stared in awe at a jellyfish that looks like glowing candy floss or you’ve had the chance to see a shark with its magnificent 3 rows of teeth up close, you know that the ocean is full of many such spectacular creatures. But a lot of these marine animals are in danger of extinction. Your simple actions can have a big impact on saving them. Read on to find out how you can protect endangered animals, regardless of whether you’re 5 or 15.
Start at a Young AgeNot everyone has the resources to fund wildlife protection campaigns or donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to animal rescue organizations. If you’re still in school, there are many things you can do to avoid being a part of practices that could be destructive to marine life and terrestrial animals.
Kind Treatment Towards Animals Never Goes Out of Style
Reading books and visiting animal sanctuaries is a great way to learn more about animals and to develop a sense of compassion towards them. If you are old enough, you can even volunteer at sanctuaries and help injured animals. If you get the chance to see firsthand, the impact of, say, the use of plastic straws, which could become lodged in a turtle’s windpipe, you will be better informed of the potential negative impacts and hopefully avoid these types of behaviors in the future.
If you go on a snorkeling trip, conduct research on safe ocean practices and ask your instructor/ guide to give you some tips to avoid harming the fish or other marine life, while observing them from a distance and enjoy swimming with them. The upside to this type of effort is that you will avoid any damage to their natural habitat.
Tropical Fish are not your pets. Keeping pet fish in cramped bowls or aquariums promotes the concept of breeding animals in captivity. Around 20 million plus tropical fish and sea creatures are taken from the ocean to be sold as pets. If your parents or someone else has given you a goldfish, or plans to give you one, educate them on the negative impacts of keeping pet fish, so they are avoiding contributing to the problem.
Movies have historically had influence on individuals, for example, on the numbers enlisting in the military (i.e. Top Gun) or taking vacations in certain destinations.
Prior to the release of the movie Shawshank Redemption, Zihuatanejo, Mexico was a small, relatively unnoticed, fishing village. After being noted towards the end of the movie as a quiet ocean paradise, vacationers flocked to this small town.
Zihuatanejo is now a tourist destination and a resort community, in no small part due to Andy’s dream and eventually getaway after escaping Shawshank prison.
Similar concerns have been expressed from recent movies over the potential of an increased demand for marine life and specifically clownfish and blue tang fish. Don’t be influenced by movies. Find Dory on-screen rather than looking for her in your fish tank at home.
One of the positive outcomes of movies like Finding Nemo and Finding Dory is that research is being conducted on how we can help save clownfish and blue tang fish. Learning and then educating people on the importance of leaving these exotic fish in the ocean is a great way to conserve a potentially endangered species.
There are also other reasons like reducing the risk of damage to the reefs and long-term damage to our environment. Following the lead the film’s star, Ellen Degeneras, educating individuals that the movie is not about taking these fish home as pets but is about “putting (blue tang and clownfish) back into the ocean.
Don’t Promote the Sale of Animals/ Animal Parts
You may have found that on your vacation to the coast, stalls were selling dried seahorses, fish trapped in tiny lockets or other animal parts. They may appear to be beautiful and whimsical, but these trinkets, which bring us a second of joy cause immense suffering to animals. In fact, animals, such as seahorses and elephants are close to extinction because of these types of practices.
Get Involved in Beach Cleaning Activities
You’ve probably experienced it at least once in your life, when you’re at the beach and you scream in fear because a jellyfish-like plastic bag brushed against your leg. For us, this is a momentary inconvenience, but for marine life , plastic waste can be fatal .
Within the past 2-3 years alone, countless massive whales have washed ashore, chock full of plastic waste. Fish, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals can become entangled in or ingest plastic debris, causing suffocation, starvation, and drowning. Annually, millions of these animals suffer horrible deaths, due to the plastic waste humans discard in our oceans.
Adopting an environmentally-friendly lifestyle starts when you’re a child. Sign up for beach cleaning up and do research on the dangers of using plastic. If you’re going to the beach for a picnic, pack reusable metal flasks instead of using disposable, plastic bottles.
If you’ve noticed that your family uses disposable plastic products frequently, educate them on the negative impacts and on alternative options that won’t harm the environment and the creatures living in it.
Related: Why Is Ocean Conservation Important?
If you're going to choose to eat seafood, then you need to make selections that don't pose a health risk, aren't overfished species and most of all are sustainable.
Don’t be fascinated by fancy restaurants serving up shark-fin soup. Apart from the fact that sharks are endangered, they are left to die in the ocean after having their fins chopped off.
Animal Shows Are Not a Source of Entertainment
Many animals are trained and bred in captivity for human entertainment. Whether it’s a depressed orca in a tiny fish tank, tired of children tapping at its glass cage, or a dolphin beaten till it jumps through hoops to make you smile, animal shows expose these animals to abuse.
If seeing an animal show is something you have hoped or planned to do , it’s time to change that plan. Instead of advocating cruelty towards animals, make it your mission to help other people understand just how cruel and inhumane these shows are to the animals involved.
Make Animal Protection a Group Activity
Whether it’s a project for school or an extracurricular activity, get all your friends in the neighborhood together to promote the protection of endangered animals. You can distribute fliers (made from recycled paper of course) and spread awareness about animals close to extinction.
Don’t forget about animals that may not be endangered but are still in need of your attention and help. You can have a neighborhood pet adoption event to rehabilitate injured animals. Make it an annual or semi-annual event to keep reinforcing the importance of protecting animals.
Be Responsible When Engaging in Water Activities
Scuba diving, snorkeling, and other such water activities help the tourism industry thrive. Magnificent, vibrant coral reefs may be reduced to a few, shabby, dying corals. Animals may be temporarily blinded because of your camera flash. Your sudden urge to touch a pretty fish may stunt its growth.If you’re going on a tropical vacation with your family, no one is telling you to cancel your snorkeling plans. There’s nothing wrong with observing everything from a distance or even taking pictures without the flash. If scuba diving and snorkeling are done responsibly, they can be a great way to learn about what you’ll be protecting with your eco-friendly habits.
Childhood Lessons Last a Lifetime
Stopping the use of plastic items at an early age can help to make it a lifelong habit. You only need to visit an animal sanctuary once in your life, for it to have a lasting impact on you. If you start out as an advocate for the protection of endangered species, you will hopefully aspire to do even bigger, greater things to save animals.
As humans, we sometimes fail to see the bigger picture. The interconnectedness of our environment is extremely complex and interdependent. So when we talk about the various endangered creatures, it’s not only for the animals well being but our own that we need to be better informed and educated.
There are so many different things that can be done to protect these animals and this article has provided you with a few ideas for young people to begin becoming involved. Our kids need to be exposed to these issues and how they can help if we ever hope to truly save these animals and the environment in which we live. If you have other ideas for our young people to get involved, please share them in the comments section.
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Megan Jones is the lead author of Seaside Planet. She is an avid surfer, scuba diver, and travel enthusiast who takes any opportunity she can to spend time in the ocean. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.