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Every day, more than
50 kinds of living things disappear
from the Earth forever

Every living thing on this planet has
a role, and sometimes we don't know how important something is until we lose it. When we lose living things, it affects the delicate balances in ecosystems. The loss of a type of plant or animal can cause an unexpected ripple effect in the environment that irreversibly harms ecosystems and ultimately humans. Caring for our home includes caring for all the living things we share it with.

An "extinct" animal is one which no longer exists anywhere on Earth. An "endangered" animal is one which is threatened with immediate extinction due to the activities of humans. A "threatened" animal is likely to become endangered if human activities do not change. An "extirpated" animal no longer exists in the wild, but exists elsewhere, like in a zoo. Zoos try to recreate animals' natural habitats, and many types of rare animals are even able to raise families.

People and wildlife have the same basic needs: a home, enough food and water, and the space and freedom to carry out daily activities. Unfortunately, humans often needlessly kill animals, pollute the environment, destroy animals' natural habitats (by clearing land for farming, roads, or buildings), and upset ecosystems by adding foreign plants and animals.

The passenger pigeon once darkened the sky as it migrated in its millions; hunting and destruction of its summer habitat made it extinct. Martha, the world's last passenger pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. In 1979, there were 1.3 million African elephants. Today, only about 300,000 are left. Their numbers are getting smaller because poachers, illegal hunters, kill them for their ivory, used in jewellery and ornaments. There are only about 5,000 wild tigers left. Too many have been killed for body parts used in traditional Chinese medicine, and their habitat is being destroyed. We are also in danger of losing animals like whales, parrots, monkeys, rhinoceroses, sea turtles, and gorillas.

In this game, an imaginary creature called a "hoppit" is threatened with extinction.

Mark off a small "home" area with masking tape. Spread small objects throughout a larger playing area.

Everyone becomes a hoppit. Hoppits are imaginary creatures that hop. Their life consists of gathering as much food (small objects) from the ground as possible. The object of the game is for hoppits to keep hopping and gathering food. Hoppits collect their food in a small pile in the home area; they can also stop hopping and rest in the home area.

To start the game, hoppits hop about on two legs and gather food. They can pick up only one piece of food (object) at a time and take it to their food pile. Each hoppit has its own food pile in the home area, and tries to keep the pile at least as large as other piles.

After about 5 minutes, hoppits are told that bad weather has made it harder to get food. This harder life is represented by hoppits now being able to hop on one leg only. If a hoppit hops on two legs, it "dies" and is out of the game. The one-legged hoppits should hop about and gather food for another 5 minutes.

Hoppits are now told that humans have built a shopping plaza on their home. Hoppits can leave their food piles where they are, but can no longer stop and rest in the home area. To stay alive, hoppits must continuously hop on one leg, while adding to their food piles.

How many hoppits survive after 5 minutes? 10 minutes? At least two hoppits must survive for the species to continue.

© SV Bosak, www.legacyproject.org

Science Is...

From Science Is...: A Source Book of Fascinating Facts, Projects and Activities by Susan V. Bosak. This classic bestseller is easy to use and filled with hundreds of tested activities and experiments in all areas of science, including the environment. Click here to find out more and get online ordering info for Science Is....


Masking tape
A large number of
  similar, small
  (e.g. several decks
  of playing cards,
  several dozen bingo


Schools (science –
Youth groups


Science Is...