Penguins at the Denver Zoo have gone "extinct" for Endangered Species Day, this year marked on May 15. Various other organizations around the United States are noting the occasion with different events designed to raise awareness of endangered animals.

Endangered Species Day was established by Congress, starting in 2006. The event is designed to raise awareness of the threats faced by species around the world.

"Endangered Species Day is a celebration of the nation's wildlife and wild places. Every year on the third Friday in May (and throughout the month), zoos, aquariums, parks,  botanic gardens, wildlife refuges, museums, schools, community centers, conservation groups and other organizations throughout the country hold tours, special speaker presentations, exhibits, children's activities and more," the Endangered Species Coalition reports.

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park held a Rally4Rhinos to help save this family of ungulate mammals native to southern Asia and Africa. Currently, a rhinoceros is poached once every eight hours, on average. If this hunting continues, these animals could be extinct in just 15 years. The zoo is home to Nola, a 41-year-old female northern white rhino believed to be one of five left in the world.

In La Jolla, Calif., the Birch Aquarium offered guests a series of educational activities, teaching visitors about the endangered animals at their facility, as well as other species around the world.

Glacier National Park in Montana offered more than 100 students from three schools a class in the park. The lessons focused on the importance of maintaining species such as bald eagles, wolves and grizzly bears. Attendees also learned about the role wildfires play in maintaining a viable ecosystem for animals in the region.

These events were not limited solely to larger or cuddly animals. In Keene, N.H., the Caterpillar Lab created a special show highlighting dangers to moths, butterflies, and caterpillars.

The Denver Zoo penguins "disappeared" for the day in a publicity stunt designed to give visitors an idea of what life would be like without the iconic Antarctic species.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that roughly 16,900 out of 44,800 species examined in its well-known Red List are currently endangered.

Many biologists believe the Earth is experiencing the sixth great extinction in the history of the planet. The last of these took place more than 65 million years ago, ending the age of the dinosaurs. Some biologists claim animals are currently going extinct at a greater rate than that event, which followed the collision of the Earth with an asteroid the size of Mount Everest. Human activities are causing great destruction of species around the planet, conservationists warn.

"Human-induced climate change is the result of high amounts of greenhouse gas emissions (primarily carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide). Acting like a greenhouse, these gases trap heat from the sun. Other human activities such as habitat destruction in combination with climate change are making the situation only worse," Endangered Species International reports.

The next Endangered Species Day will take place on May 20, 2016.

Photo: Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero | Flickr

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