Wild animals and plants are a vital part of the ecosystem they live in, contributing to the food chain, building forests and other habitats, and offering inspiration and recreation. However, the extinction of many wildlife species is on the rise, largely due to the actions of humans. Hence, it’s important for people to understand more about wildlife and take measures to conserve it.

The term ‘wildlife’ originally meant undomesticated animal species, but has come to encompass all living organisms that evolve or exist in the natural environment without human introduction. It is found in all habitats, including deserts, jungles, plains, grasslands and even the most populated urban areas. Wildlife includes all species of plants and animals that have not been domesticated for any purpose, as well as those that are hunted for sport or other reasons.

In addition to providing a source of food, shelter and medicine, wildlife also plays a critical role in preventing soil erosion, providing pollination, cleaning up waste, promoting biodiversity, regulating climate, and supporting water supply. Hence, they should be protected at all times. Billions of people in developed and developing nations benefit from wild plants and animals by using them for their daily needs. These include energy, materials, recreation, health and nutrition. The global biodiversity crisis with a million species of wildlife facing extinction threatens these valuable contributions to the human race.

A great way to begin learning more about wildlife is by observing animal tracks and other marks that they leave behind. It’s easy to distinguish between reptiles, amphibians and insects by their crinkly footprints, while mammals like the beaver in West Virginia have more distinct print characteristics.

Another helpful tool for identifying wildlife is listening to their sounds. Birds, for example, have unique songs and calls, while small mammals make rooting or eating noises. Also, many wildlife species produce a distinctive smell that can also help you figure out what they are.

Another useful way to learn more about wildlife is by visiting online resources such as the National Park Service website that features photos of flora and fauna from all over the country. The site also has information on local wildlife and a number of regional checklists to download. The USDA’s plant database is also a good place to start, with a search engine that allows you to find information about both native and introduced plants. There are also websites such as eNature and iNaturalist, which allow users to record their observations of nature in a database for others to see. They are a fun way to get kids and adults involved in wildlife observation.