An endangered species is at risk of becoming extinct. For example, the panda and gorilla are endangered and may become extinct. A species can become endangered for several reasons, including:
For example, the South African quagga was a type of zebra that became extinct because of hunting. The last wild quagga was shot in the late 1870s. However, a lone female quagga later died in a zoo in Amsterdam in 1883, the last of her species.
A species may even be at risk of becoming extinct if there is not enough genetic variation in the population. This can happen even if the population is still quite large.
Biodiversity means having as wide a range of different species in an ecosystem as possible. It is important to conserve the variety of living organisms on Earth. Not only do we have moral and cultural reasons for conserving endangered species, but conservation:
Some species in Britain are endangered, including the skylark, red squirrel and grass snake. They could be helped by conservation measures such as:
Plant species can also be endangered. Seed banks are a conservation measure for plants. Seeds are carefully stored so that new plants may be grown in the future.
Seed banks are an example of a gene bank. Gene banks are increasingly being used to preserve genetic material for use in the future. A cryobank is another type of gene bank. Embryos, sperm or eggs are stored at very low temperatures in liquid nitrogen (which is at a very chilly –196 °C). They can be thawed out later for use in breeding programmes.