||Are Many of North Carolinas
Aquatic Animals Considered Endangered or Threatened?
29 May 1997
More than half of North Carolinas endangered or threatened
animals live in or depend upon our waters for survival.
At present, 42 animals in North Carolina are listed as endangered
or threatened by the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, the federal agency charged
with administering the Endangered Species Act. Twenty-three
of these species are aquatic animals.
Included among North Carolinas endangered or threatened
aquatic creatures are five species of whales, five species
of sea turtles, four species of fish, and seven species
of mollusks. The American alligator, which has made a dramatic
recovery in recent years, and the West Indian manatee, rare
to North Carolina waters, are also included on the list.
|While endangered species
can be found in virtually every region of the state,
those species requiring a wetland habitat are at the
greatest risk. Like plants and animals, habitats can
also be threatened and wetlands are some of the most
threatened habitats in the United States, disappearing
at the alarming rate of 35 acres an hour. It is estimated
that about half of North Carolinas wetland habitats
have been destroyed since European settlement.
animals, such as the Diamondback Terrapin, that
does an endangered species differ from a threatened
Basically, endangered means the species
is in immediate peril of becoming extinct. Threatened
means the species is declining and may eventually
face extinction unless measures are taken to help
it. In North Carolina, state laws include a section
on species of special concern.
The destruction and alteration of habitat is by
far the greatest cause of species extinction, and
the least reversible. Other man-made threats to
plants and animals include pollution of our land,
air and water, overkill through excessive harvest,
and introduction of a species from one ecosystem
While scientists have identified some 1.75 million species
on earth, it is believed that as many as 30 million species
have yet to be discovered. Experts speculate that each day,
at least one of these known species become extinct. Perhaps
the most important steps we can take in preserving species
diversity include research and education. The more we know
about any form of life, the better prepared we are to protect
it. Research can also help us identify new species before
ecological pressures drive them into extinction.