In the U.S., 719 animal species are listed as federally endangered or threatened. Every state is home to endangered species--some well-known, some obscure. All are vital to their ecosystems. The Wyoming toad may be North America's most endangered amphibian. Disease and habitat loss drove the lumpy, spotted toad into such rapid decline in the 20th century that by 1984, there were only about 16 wild toads left, all in a single county just west of Laramie, Wyoming.
A passenger train passes as Indian vets measure the carcass of two endangered Asian elephants that were hit and killed by a passenger train near a railway track in Thakur Kuchi village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. GAUHATI, India – Two endangered Asian elephants have been hit and killed by a passenger train near the city of Gauhati in northeastern India. Wildlife warden Prodipta Baruah says the elephants were part of a herd of about 15 that had ventured into the area in search of food before dawn Sunday. Indian villagers look the carcass of two endangered Asian elephants that were hit and killed by a passenger train near a railway track in Thakur Kuchi village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. He says the other elephants crossed the track and the final two were attempting to cross when the train struck them.
HONG KONG - Chinese traditional medicine is rapidly expanding worldwide as a key pillar of the country's "Belt and Road" initiative, but conservation groups say demand for treatments using animal products is driving a surge in illegal trafficking of wildlife. Since the start of the year, authorities in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong have seized record volumes of threatened species, including 8.3 tons of pangolin scales from nearly 14,000 pangolins and its largest ever haul of rhino horns, worth more than $1 million. The former British colony is one of the world's primary wildlife trafficking transit points, supplying an array of products including shark fins, tiger parts and rhino horn across Asia and into mainland China. "One of the most alarming characteristics of wildlife trafficking is the growing use of threatened species in traditional medicines," conservation group ADM Capital Foundation said in a recent report. It identified the traditional Chinese medicine industry as accounting for more than three-quarters of the trade in endangered wildlife products in Hong Kong over the past 5 years.
A male sage grouse performs a mating dance.Keith R. Crowley/ZUMA Wire "Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed." With those words, President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law in 1973. In doing so, he ushered in an era of federal environmental regulation that has saved animals on the verge of extinction, like the bald eagle, gray wolf, and humpback whale, and preserved crucial habitats for animals not on the list, like the sage grouse. Few people disputed the importance of such an act at the time--it cleared the House in a 355-4 vote and sailed through the Senate unanimously. Since its passage, the Endangered Species Act has also enjoyed bipartisan approval from the electorate.
This summer, Donald Trump visited the Central Valley and promised voters he would prioritize agricultural development in California. In his speech, the president-elect blamed the environmental laws protecting a "certain three-inch fish"--the Delta smelt--for the prolonged drought. He promised, if elected, to place the needs of farmers over fish. But it looks like his promise is coming ahead of schedule. On Saturday, Congress passed the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, a huge bill that protects safe drinking water, provides upgrades to infrastructure like ports, and provides $558 million dollars in drought relief for California.