8 Ways You Can Make a Difference for Wildlife
- By: Mary Daly
Food, water, energy, medicine — nature provides humankind with invaluable resources. Yet we’re not doing nearly enough to protect it.
The World Wildlife Fund recently published its Living Planet Report — and the news was “sobering.” “On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years,” according to the report. “The top threats to species identified in the report link directly to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and the excessive use of wildlife such as overfishing and overhunting.”
If this inspires you to take action, here are eight ways to make a difference in protecting wildlife.
1. CREATE A BACKYARD HABITAT
A major problem for wildlife is habitat loss. So the National Resources Defense Council suggests turning your property into comfortable terrain for plants and animals. Landscape with native plants — especially ones that require little maintenance and attract pollinators. And make sure you provide enough shelter for birds and other small animals, who help the ecosystem thrive.
If you’re not sure where to begin, check out the National Wildlife Federation’s requirements for a certified wildlife habitat. And find local organizations that can guide you toward what’s right for your area.
2. AVOID PESTICIDES
No matter how you landscape, it’s always better for wildlife when you don’t use toxic pesticides. There are plenty of natural methods to control pests and unwanted vegetation. For instance, choose plants that naturally repel insects, and pull invasive vegetation by hand. It may be a little more work, but you’ll prevent harmful chemicals from damaging the ecosystem.
3. ANIMAL-PROOF YOUR TRASH
If you have outdoor trash cans, make sure they’re secure from the area’s wildlife, especially predators. “This will help reduce potentially negative run-ins and foster coexistence between your family, your pets, and neighboring wildlife,” the National Resources Defense Council says.
Likewise, PETA recommends crushing cans and cutting open containers and other items animal might get stuck in. There’s always the possibility an animal might sneak into your trash, so taking a few extra seconds to make it safe could save a life.
4. LIMIT PLASTICS IN YOUR LIFE
Plastic waste pollutes water, kills animals who ingest it and even makes humans sick. It’s difficult to completely avoid plastic use, but there are many ways to be more eco-friendly about it. Avoid single-use plastics, such as water bottles, whenever possible. Buy used items to cut down on plastic packaging. And recycle everything you can.
It might not seem like you can make much of a difference with all the plastic out there. But if you save even one sea turtle from suffering with a plastic straw lodged up its nostril, you’re doing your part.
5. KEEP CATS INDOORS
If you’re a cat owner, there are numerous reasons to keep your pet indoors. It’s not only much safer for the cat, but it saves the lives of many birds and other small animals. One study estimates cats in the United States kill 1.3 billion to 4 billion birds and 6.3 billion to 22.3 billion mammals every year. Those small animals are vital to the ecosystem and can’t afford such drastic hits to their numbers by a non-native predator, such as the domestic cat. If you absolutely cannot keep your cat indoors, at least attach a bell to its collar to warn its prey.
6. PLACE DECALS ON YOUR WINDOWS
Speaking of birds, millions die each year due to collisions with man-made structures — especially windows and glass doors. Fortunately, there are several effective methods to collision-proof windows. “Screens, grilles, and shutters work wonders,” according to the National Resources Defense Council. ”Frosted glass, window film, and taped or etched stripes and dots — placed either two inches apart horizontally or four inches apart vertically — all significantly reduce collisions as well.”
Remember, birds provide natural pest control by eating insects, such as mosquitoes. And they help to disperse seeds and nutrients throughout the soil. Those services to your local environment are well worth a few adjustments to your windows.
7. PROPERLY DISPOSE OF HAZARDOUS MATERIALS
If you need to get rid of hazardous materials, such as paints or batteries, don’t just pour them down the drain or throw them in the trash. “Things like paint thinner, furniture polish, and antifreeze can pollute our water and land, impacting people as well as wildlife,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Most communities have organizations that collect and properly dispose of hazardous substances. But it’s up to you to seek them out and keep your wildlife safe.
8. BE A VOICE FOR NATURE
Turn your passion for nature into action by volunteering at local wildlife organizations and working to educate your community. “Speak up at community forums where topics connected to wildlife or natural habitat are on the agenda, take local action, such as organizing a tree-planting project or a cleanup of one of your area’s waterways, or advocate for town ordinances that prevent pesticide use in parks or on lawns,” the Natural Resources Defense Council suggests.
You can make an impact on a global scale, as well, by helping to raise awareness and funds for certain causes. The World Wildlife Fund’s Action Center is a good place to start to find causes that need support. It might seem like a daunting task, but for all the wrongs humankind has inflicted on wildlife, there are passionate people around the globe working to make them right.