Endangered species in California


A statue of a Catalina Island fox. This fox is endangered and found only at Catalina Island.

From behind a thicket of bamboo shrubs, a glimmer of gold catches the tourist’s eye. He shuffles quietly, making his way closer and closer. Peering past the bushes, the tourist sees a tortoise with a variegated shell of burnt bronze and golden ridges. The stolid animal barely blinks at his presence as he gawks at its shell. However, as the tourist examines the reptile more closely, he sees that its back is marred with random engravings of letters and numbers.

This tortoise is the ploughshare, an endangered animal highly coveted for its golden shell. Seeking to protect the ploughshare, conservationists have begun to graffiti their shells to reduce their allure to collectors.

Ploughshares are endemic to Madagascar, and around only 600 tortoises remain in the wild. The ploughshare is in high demand in Asia, particularly China, Indonesia, and Thailand, where collectors are willing to pay upwards of $50000 for an adult.

While the ploughshare may be garnering national attention, many other species are threatened or endangered as well. In California today, there are a total of 303 species that have been state listed as endangered, threatened or rare. Compared to the 302 species in 2005, this number has remained almost identical.

When looking at endangered animals though, the number has nearly doubled since 2005. Animal populations naturally fluctuate, but urbanization has had a negative effect on animal wildlife.

“There are so many factors that play a role in diminishing wildlife species, and most of them are human caused,” said Ashley Kinney, Wildlife Rehabilitation Supervisor at Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. “Some of those factors include lack of native plants, diminishing habitats, lack of food, water and shelter, feral cat populations, human overpopulation and continuous encroachment on native habitats.”

Living in the Bay Area, students increasingly focused on entering STEM fields may wonder why wildlife, which seems like the antithesis of what Silicon Valley represents today, is so important. Besides providing important commodities such as clothes, food, shelter and even medicine, wildlife contributes to the economy and corresponds to the health of the human population.

Kinney believes that way students can help wildlife conservation by promoting awareness of endangered animal species.

“Educate friends and family about human impact on the environment [and] understand that there are so many ways to help on a day to day basis,” she said. “Do all you can to ensure we will not see another native species [go] extinct.”

To keep track of endangered species, visit The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, which constantly observes and updates lists of endangered species.