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Wild Things: Endangered Species Even Closer to Extinction

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Many animals on the endangered species list are there because of lost habitat or pollution. Take a look at this case of human carelessness when dealing with the plants and animals of our world.

In January 2001, an Ecuadorian oil tanker smashed into a coral reef off the coast of the Galapagos Islands while trying to dock and unload its shipment of crude oil. Over 800,000 gallons (3,028,000 liters) of oil were spilled into the Pacific Ocean. At the time of the crash there were strong, cool ocean currents, and scientists thought that the majority of oil had been dispersed through the water, avoiding contamination of the Galapagos Islands and its animals.

Over a year later, scientists now realize that even this relatively small oil spill (compared to other spills throughout history,) has caused severe damage to the population of Galapagos Iguanas that live on the Galapagos Island of Santa Fe. Over 62 percent of the iguanas have died since the oil spill in 2001. That means there are less than 15,000 Galapagos Iguanas still alive. Scientists worry that if the oil spill had happened at a different time of year, when the ocean currents weren't as strong, all the iguanas would be dead. Scientists believe that even the minimal traces of oil that made it to the islands ended up contaminating the algae that the iguanas live off of.

The Galapagos Islands have been designated a World Heritage Site and are located about 620 miles (1,000 kilometers) west of the South American country, Ecuador. The captain of the oil tanker was jailed for 90 days after the spill and had his captain's license taken away. Today, an American biologist and the Galapagos National Park are suing Petroecuador, Ecuador's state-owned oil company, for damages. It is because of incidents like this one that we have to put more effort into protecting the animals that we share our planet with. And we must continue to pursue those people who are risking the existence of animals and plants around the world.

What are your thoughts on the Galapagos Iguana's situation? Comment below and let us know.

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