No doubt about it, there’s some pretty incredible wildlife to be found across the world. Unfortunately, in this day and age, many species have found themselves in dire circumstances and danger of extinction because of threats to their living environments.

Climate change, increasing population, and oil drilling are just a few of the issues that have put animal reserves in peril. Unfortunately, if changes aren’t made, many animal reserves could be severely compromised or disappear forever.

Ready to educate yourself on the potential threats facing wildlife around the world? Here are three vital animal reserves in danger of disappearing.

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

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Located on a remote portion of the Bering Sea coast in Alaska, this incredible refuge is home to bears, foxes, caribou and others. It’s also an important stopping point for several migratory birds, including geese and the endangered Steller’s eiders.

Unfortunately, in 2009, a massive highway project was approved that would run straight through the middle of this vital refuge. The project was green-lighted by Congress with the provision that the road had to serve the greater public interest.

While the Secretary of the Interior deemed that the project should be rejected, members of Congress continue to rally for the building of the road. If the road is built, it could have grave consequences for Izembek National Wildlife Refuge. Not only could this ecosystem be destroyed, but green-lighting this project could set a dangerous precedent for the future safety of other reserves.

National Elk Refuge, Wyoming

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Located near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the National Elk Refuge is a 25,000-acre winter habitat for elk. But elk aren’t the only residents. It’s also home to a variety of birds, fish, and several other big game animals.

The refuge was established in 1912 as a place to help maintain the elk population. For approximately six months of the year, the elk move to the refuge from higher ground to escape the worst of the cold weather. Here they are fed in feedlot-style.

While helping out the elk is not a bad thing, there is an imminent threat to the elk population that demands that changes are made to maintain their health. Chronic wasting disease, which is somewhat like mad cow disease, has occurred near the refuge. Were this disease to enter the refuge, the current feedlot conditions could spread it quickly and devastate the elk population.

Efforts have been made to stop the feeding program, including a joint lawsuit filed by the National Wildlife Refuge Association with several other conservation organizations. Unfortunately, their case did not prevail in court, but they continue to fight for the safety and well-being of the elk population.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

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The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (also called the ANWR or simply the Arctic Refuge) is a massive refuge located in northern Alaska. At about 19.6 million (yes, million) acres, it’s the largest wildlife refuge in the country.

Among its many residents? A huge variety of animals including caribou, eagles, migratory birds, polar bears, wolves, and many species of plants.

Unfortunately, there’s a strong possibility that the ground beneath the refuge contains oil and natural gas. This has caused ongoing efforts on the part of the extraction industry to approve drilling operations on the refuge. To say that drilling would devastate the refuge would be an understatement. Any potential leaks or spills could forever damage the fragile ecosystem and could have fatal effects on plants and animals.

However, with the potential for billions of dollars of oil revenue, the push for drilling remains strong. Only time will tell if the administration will give in to pressure from the extraction industry or if maintaining the safety of this vital animal reserve will prevail.

Knowledge Is Power

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As the world becomes more developed, the threats facing wildlife become more serious. If changes aren’t made, we could lose not only animal reserves but entire species of plants and animals. Education is key because it can raise necessary public awareness that can lead to preserving these vital wildlife havens.