swallowtail butterflies
Julia Malakie/AP
Tiger Swallowtail butterflies at The
Butterfly Place in Mass.

5 Animals We Need to Survive

March 26, 2009
by Rachel Balik
We’re always hearing about the animals we need to save, but have you ever wondered why? While we certainly don’t want to be responsible for destroying any species, it turns out that in some cases, if we do allow animal populations to suffer, we’ll also be hurting ourselves. Here are five animals that humans can’t live without.


Bees are known for producing honey, and while that industry is certainly an essential one, it’s not the only reason why we need bees. Governments throughout the world are trying to combat a phenomenon called Colony Collapse Disorder, first observed in North America in 2004 and which subsequently moved to Europe. America has lost 36.1 percent of its beehives since 2007. Perhaps because bees are considered “bugs,” they don’t get the same attention as a mammal facing extinction.

But we should be paying attention to bee survival: bees are essential to the human food supply. USA Today warns that if we don’t do anything to protect the bees, we might end up reverting to diets composed solely of bread and water. Insect pollination supports one-third of human crop growth, and of this number, honeybees are responsible for 80 percent. What sort of crops? Apples, nuts, avocados, soybeans, asparagus, broccoli, cucumbers, strawberries and peaches, just to name a few, the article says. And since cows depend on bees to pollinate the plants they eat, we’d also be without meat if all the bees died off.

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Bats, although sometimes demonized in horror movies and on Halloween, are actually of considerable benefit to humanity. Nature magazine explains that we need bats because they eat insects, pollinate crops and even help to fertilize crops with their guano. Unfortunately, they’re also in danger; white nose syndrome is plaguing North American bat populations. And if you’re so sad about the possible loss of bats that you feel like you need a drink, you may be out of luck: bats help to pollinate agave plants, a key ingredient in the commercial production of tequila. Even scary-seeming vampire bats have a purpose. Their saliva may be an essential factor in developing blood-thinning medication that could help treat stroke victims.


The butterfly is another flying animal with great value to humanity. Certainly, they’re appreciated more than bats for their beauty, but they can also play a valuable role in forecasting the future of climate change, ScienceDaily reported. The Climatic Risk Atlas of European Butterflies correlated climate change models with data about butterfly populations. Scientists were able to draw key conclusions about how the level of rising temperatures would affect biodiversity. Based on these assessments, scientists can make recommendations for combating climate change.


Recent research suggests that fish can actually combat climate change. The New Scientist reports that researchers at the University of Exeter have data that indicates that fish excrement in the form of calcium carbonate can significantly reduce ocean acidity. When the fish excrement floats to the surface of the ocean and dissolves, it counters the carbon dioxide that creates acidity in the water.


Worms generally slip under our radar, staying out of sight underground—and most people prefer it that way, finding the wriggling creatures creepy. But the eco-savvy who let worms into their life can help reduce landfill use. For many years, people have been using worm composting as an alternative to throwing out garbage. National Geographic revealed that even people who live in cities can try “vermicomposting,” and keep a worm bin in their kitchen. Instead of putting it in the garbage disposal, food and waste are placed in the bin and decomposed by the red worms. Worms can therefore cut down on waste accumulation and provide useful fertilizer at the same time.

Preserving Biological Diversity

All animals and insects, not only the five we’ve mentioned, contribute to their ecosystems and help keep the planet alive. Unfortunately, a variety of factors have thrown several ecosystems off balance, and many animals are threatened or endangered. The Center for Biological Diversity has information on a variety of ongoing campaigns to assist species in danger.

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