WASHINGTON, D.C. — Friday, May 15, thousands of Americans are participating in Endangered Species Day digital events and at-home activities across the country, in recognition of our nation’s commitment to protecting and restoring our disappearing wildlife.
This is the 15th annual international Endangered Species Day, which occurs on the third Friday of May, celebrating our wildlife and wild places.
“Endangered Species Day celebrates our declared national responsibility to our children and their children to save our vanishing wildlife and plants,” stated Leda Huta, executive director of the Endangered Species Coalition, primary sponsor of Endangered Species Day. “Bald eagles, sea turtles, wolves, and gray whales are just a fraction of the 1,600 species that the Endangered Species Act is saving every day.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the fact that much of the U.S. remains in various degrees of closure, this year’s Endangered Species Day will occur predominantly in the virtual, digital realm. On Friday (and throughout May) wildlife refuges, zoos, aquariums, parks, botanic gardens, schools, libraries, museums, and community groups will hold online or remote events. Some highlights include:
- A free online film screening of the documentary Racing Extinction followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, hosted by the Endangered Species Coalition;
- A digital Endangered Species Day Parade, hosted by Rocky Mountain Wild;
- The launch of a “TurtleCam” at the Oceanagrafic in Valencia, Spain;
- A national “What’s In My Backyard?” species identification challenge; people across the United States will get outdoors and take photos of plants, bugs, birds, mammals, and other species in their yards or local green spaces.
These and other events are listed on the Endangered Species Day website.
Endangered Species Day was first created by the U.S. Senate in 2006, when it unanimously designated May 11, 2006 as the first ever “Endangered Species Day,” to encourage “the people of the United States to become educated about, and aware of, threats to species, success stories in species recovery, and the opportunity to promote species conservation worldwide.”
In 2009 the Coalition began incorporating a national youth art contest into the Endangered Species Day event. Each year, nearly two thousand students of all ages submit illustrations of their favorite endangered species to contest judges. The top winners in each age group are selected for the publication in the annual Endangered Species Art calendar, and the grand prizewinner receives a special award. This year’s grand prize winner is Englewood, Colo. 8th-grader Isis Stevens. Stevens was awarded $100 of art supplies donated by Chartpak and an individual lesson with a professional artist.
More than 1,300 imperiled species of plants, fish and wildlife in the United States have been protected by the Endangered Species Act, and only ten have gone extinct, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Additionally, a 2012 study found that 90 percent of protected species are recovering at the pace expected in their scientific recovery plans. Signed by President Richard Nixon in 1973, public opinion research indicates that the Act receives strong, broad, public support.
“We have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren to be good stewards of nature,” Huta said. “The Endangered Species Act is a declaration to the world that we will not rob our children of the opportunity to watch a humpback whale break through the surface of the ocean or to hear the cry of the bald eagle.”
In addition to the Endangered Species Coalition, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), numerous conservation, education, community and youth organizations also have supported and participated in Endangered Species Day.
These include the Girl Scouts USA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the North American Association for Environmental Education, Native Plant Conservation Campaign, Garden Clubs of America, Sierra Club, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the National Science Teachers Association, Earth Day Network, National Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife.
Since many states and localities have different COVID-19-related guidelines and restrictions in place to slow the spread of the virus, we urge anyone planning to participate in an Endangered Species Day activity to check with their local health department prior to heading out.
For more information on Endangered Species Day, including event locations and a variety of educational resource materials, visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org.