On May 17th, we recognize National Endangered Species Day. This day serves as a critical reminder of the countless creatures facing extinction and the urgent need for conservation efforts.

This year, we’re highlighting the zebra shark, a captivating yet vulnerable inhabitant of the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

Striking Beauty, Stark Reality

Zebra sharks are named for their distinctive black and white stripes, resembling a zebra’s markings. These slow-moving sharks can grow up to nearly 10 feet long and are found in shallow coral reefs and seagrass beds.

Despite their impressive size, zebra sharks are gentle giants. They feed primarily on mollusks and crustaceans, using their suction to extract prey from the seafloor. Zebra sharks are not dangerous to humans and can be easily approached underwater.

A Species on the Brink

Unfortunately, these fascinating creatures are classified as endangered, by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Several factors contribute to their precarious situation:

  • Habitat Loss: Destruction of coral reefs and seagrass meadows, critical for zebra shark breeding and feeding, is a major threat.
  • Accidental Bycatch: Zebra sharks are often unintentionally caught in fishing gear targeting other species.
  • Limited Range: These sharks inhabit a relatively small geographic area, making them more susceptible to population decline.

Taking Action for Zebra Sharks and Beyond

National Endangered Species Day is a call to action. Here are some ways you can help:

• Support sustainable seafood practices: Choose seafood certified by organizations like the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), which promote sustainable fishing methods that minimize bycatch, such as Rio Mare Tuna and others. You can research good food brands here.

• Donate to conservation organizations: Several organizations work tirelessly to protect endangered species, including sharks. Consider supporting their efforts. Oceana and Shark Trust are good places to start.

• Raise awareness: Talk to friends and family about the threats faced by zebra sharks and other endangered species. Sharing information is a powerful tool. Share this post and build awareness for this beautiful creature.

By taking action, we can help ensure that future generations have the opportunity to witness the wonder of zebra sharks and other magnificent creatures on the brink of extinction.

Beyond the Zebra Shark

Although the zebra shark is a compelling example, countless species require our attention. National Endangered Species Day is a springboard to explore the diversity of endangered creatures and the conservation efforts underway. There’s always more to learn and more we can do.

For even more exploration of the natural world, tune in to our “Stories, Science, and Secrets” podcast: here.  Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of biomimicry and the inspiring ways science learns from nature’s genius.

Download our FREE lesson plans and slides about Extinction, Biomimicry and more here: