We have undoubtedly all read reports or even watched some sort of television special on a dieing species of animals. It is very likely that since that report or television special we haven’t given the report much more thought or sympathy than we would when we browse through the obituaries. It is a common sentiment for humans to have a lack of interest in anything that doesn’t seem to affect them “directly”. But are we being naïve to think that the extinction of a species will not ever affect us? Does this mean that nothing can be done to prevent such calamities? This and more will be discussed in the following topic.
A species is considered endangered when the numbers dwindle to a point puts the entire population on a pathway to extinction. This could be a steady drop in a population for several years or something as rare as a sudden and sharp drop in numbers. Of the 94 species of birds that are known to have disappeared 85 of those birds were island birds. In fact, the last dodo was known to have died on the island of Mauritius in about 1680. Island birds are not the only victims; many continental animals are also endangered.
For instance, in southern China the numbers of Amur tigers have been estimated to number only 30 – 80! A century ago in Tailand there were an estimated 100,000 elephants running in the wild. Now the gentle giants have fallen to less than 5,000, of which more than 3,000 are in captivity. These numbers are dropping at a staggering 3% every year. “The Asian elephant is already considered an endangered species.” (Elephant Help Project, 1)
How do population numbers reach such worrying figures? There are several causes; however, three are the most predominant, two of which are direct causes by humans.
Imagine returning home from work only to find that an your home has been replaced by a square mile of ash and dirt. What would this do to you? Although this is devastating it doesn’t reach the overwhelming disaster that animal would experience. Throughout the world humans are destroying animals’ natural habitat in order to clear areas for development. In Thailand there exists only 15-20% of forest cover which has made it very difficult for the elephant or any other living creature to live.
“Harvard professor Edward Wilson estimates that the loss of forest amounts to 1 percent a year, and this dooms thousands of species to eventual extinction. It is feared that many species will vanish before they are even assigned a scientific name” (www.watchtower.org, 1).
The decrease in habitat destruction is not in sight since the growing human population is in increasing need of land for homes, business, and agriculture. It is estimated that over the past century Europe’s dry grasslands have been taken over for agriculture.
Humans have hunted animals for centuries and such practices have become more of a sport than a necessity in the past centuries. For instance, the lions of the Mediterranean have completely disappeared due to zealous hunters many centuries ago. In North America the buffalo and wild beavers were on the verge of extinction due to over hunting during the late 1800s.
Poachers around the world continue to prey on elephants for their tusks and rhinoceros’ for their horns. Although societies have been established to prevent such ruthless tactics, such as CITES, the problem continues to grow. It is a direct result of the demand for ivory on the black market, a problem that could be resolved in humans wouldn’t put a value on such a product.
The staggering numbers of endangered species is a red flag that the animal kingdom is raising in a feeble attempt to raise awareness and conservation. The human population has paid attention to these signals and as a result has established several projects that have helped many species crawl off of the endangered species list. For instance, many international agreements have been drafted in order to curve the decline in animal populations. “The Convention on Biological Diversity, the Rio Treaty, the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe,” have been a few of the many agreements that have helped endangered animals. The most powerful has been the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which helps fight illicit trafficking in endangered species.
Some programs have even been too successful. For example, in Zimbabwe the policies proved so successful that wildlife preserves and national parks were housing far too many elephants that 5,000 were needed to be removed. The park put the elephants up for sale and asked agencies to who were for conservation to “put their money where there mouth is…” (watchtower, 3).
Despite these efforts a law, agreement or an association is only good if the rules are enforced in all areas. It is sad to say that many conservation efforts are not accomplishing their goals. If one put a zoo-raised tiger back into the wild, the animal will certainly die of starvation.
Animal conservation is indeed a problem that will not be eradicated in the near future. If we do our part and support organizations that promote conservation and if we shun illegal products then this will take a drop from the the ocean of oblivion that threatens many animals.“Conservation versus extinction”.