Problems with Wildlife
It is blatantly obvious that the level of wildlife has been decreasing amazingly over the years. Species of animals and plants are rapidly becoming endangered or even extinct.
There are many factors that are making this problem a reality. Habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution are the three major factors that are destroying our wildlife.
The destruction of habitat is the greatest of all threats to wildlife, whether theyre rich tropical forests, mangroves, swamps, coral reefs, or your own local grassland or woods. Most wild plants and animals are so closely adapted to their own particular habitat that they become rare or endangered if it is damaged or removed. Globally, the most worrying losses of habitat are the tropical rain forests, because these contain, by far, the largest number of species. Although large areas of tropical rain forests still survive, they are still being lost at an alarming rate, areas the size of small countries each year. Coral reefs, another rich habitat, are threatened by fishing and shell collection. The first comprehensive map of our planets reefs indicates that they collectively cover just about 110,000 square miles, an area about as big as Nevada. Thats about half the size that scientists had estimated (Discover, Dec2001, Vol. 22 issue 12, p20, p2/6, 1c). The coral reefs are dramatically decreasing. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the center for Marine Studies at the University of Queensland in Australia, studies the environmental conditions that reefs need to survive. Rishing temperatures, he says, are one of the most
Insidious threats. If temperature increases seen in the past decade continue, Hoegh-Guldberg predicts that in fifty years coral reefs as we know them will be gone. Short of drastically decreasing oru emissions of greenhouse gases, the best thing we can do for the reefs is reduce the amount of pollution theyre exposed to, he says: If you expose a person to a heat wave, you dont want to poison him to. (Discover, Dec2001, Vol. 22 Issue 12, p20, 2/6p, 1c). But perhaps a greater threat is the mud and silt from land erosion. This enters the shallow sea coral area from nearby rivers and kills the live corals.
People have hunted animals and collected wild plants for thousands of years. In the early days of human evolution, it was necessary to survive. Today, however, hunting continues mostly as a sport, or in more sinister fashion as illegal poaching for profit. Beautiful shells and some kinds of wild plant, including cacti, are collected as well.
The large whales were hunted almost to the point of no return for their meat, oil, and fat. In the 1980s most countries halted this activity and whale population now shows signs of recovery. Dolphins, smaller cousins of the whales, suffer from being snared in fishing nets and many die accidentally by drowning.
Hunting has had a major impact on large mammals, especially on the open plains and savannas of Africa. Rhinoceroses, elephants, and others are easily spotted and shot. Elephants are the largest living land mammal and the only remaining representative of the order Proboscides, which during the Pleistocene period roamed every landmass except Australia and Antarctica. And they are just killed to the point where they are
endangered (Elephants Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia volume 9). The high price of ivory has fueled the illegal killing of elephants, which have become rare in many areas. You may not think poaching is that serious, however, recently a South African court has handed down its heaviest ever sentence for a man convicted of killing an elephant in the Kruger National Park.
The man was sentenced to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty of killing a bull elephant and hacking off its tusks.
Pollution comes from many different sources: Chemicals draining from farmland, factories, or sewage outflows; fumes pouring from vehicles, factories, and power stations; events such as leaks from oil pipelines or tankers at sea.
Every year pollution kills countless numbers of wildlife and plants. New Britain, Papua New Guinea, a thirty-five thousand year old rain forest is being threatened by pollution (Antiquity v 68 Sept 1994.p. 604-10). That can even affect nature reserves and other wildlife refuges. A particular problem is caused by acid rain. Rain becomes unnaturally acidic when it absorbs sulphur and nitrogen, which are put into the air mainly from the burning of coal, gas, and oil used as fuel for cars, factories, houses, and power stations. This acid rain reduces the fertility of the soil and causes damage to trees and water life. Acid rain usually falls hundreds of miles away from the polluting area. It is an international problem and has already damaged huge tracks of forests in northern
North America, Europe, and Northern Asia.
War also plays a huge part in the killing of animals. Thousands of left-over mine fields are still around today, and are killing animals at an alarming rate. In Afghanistan, landmines are increasing the threat of extinction to snow leopards. In Angola, antelope and elephant fall prey to landmines, also soldiers starving for food slay the antelope and elephant and eat their meat. In Bangledesh, elephants are killed by landmines. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, brown bear have fallen victim to land mines. The snakes are highly sensitive to soil quality and have almost disappeared due to chemical contamination by landmines. Croatia, Alojzije Frkoviae reports that 14 brown bears were killed by landmines and shelling between 1991 and 1995. The Falkland Malvinas Islands were extremely dangerous until the minefields were cleared. Penguins were forced to find new nesting grounds. In India, landmines are decimating Kiangs, a type of wild horse. Also the Tibetans Women Association reports: The leopards, snow leopards, and Bengal tigers are killed and maimed as they traverse the mind slopes. Ranjit Dev Rai reports: Says Pemba, a yak herdsman, The only shapi I have come across in recent times was one which was blown up after it jumped over barbed wire and into a minefield. According to the villagers, wildlife herds often charge into minefields when they are attacked by snow leopards, an equally endangered species, which naturally prey on them. Both predators and prey get incinerated when the chase enters the minefield.
In Japan, Paul Murray of BOMBS AWAY Inc. has found that a Hawksbill turtle
was killed by the detonation of ten Japanese depth charges by the U.S. Navy EOD Team.
In Libya, Gazelles are reported to have disappeared from sites that were mined during World War II. In Mozambique, elephants are found maimed by anti-personnel mines and killed outright by anti-tank mines. Landmines have killed elephants on both sides of the Mozambique-South Africa border in Krueger National Park. Also, ivory poaching is used to finance the purchase of mines and other weapons.
In Nepal, Colonel Percy Blasher-Snell reports: And sadly, in March of 1994, he put his foot on a bomb. It blew his foot off and he walked to the forest pool and lay down, over the course of four or five days died beside the pool. We were all upset about it, because of all the elephants that this has happened to, it happened to this magnificent animal, Tulahat. In Puerto Rico, Fernando Reals reports: Excess navy materials are never disposed of, instead they are detonated or buried in the ground. These metals then oxidize and decompose into contaminates that further endanger the lives of wildlife and humans. In Rwanda a silverback gorilla was killed by a landmine in December 1994. In Senegal, Mutor Gaye writes: The war has caused the disappearance of a rare species of forest buffaloes, 200 bird species, antelopes, and panthers. Pythons, vipers, and najas, which used to hunt the paths, are also on their way out because of landmines. In Sri Lanka, Charles Santiapillai, a zoologist at the University of Peradeniya, estimates that up to 20 elephants are killed by mines each year.
The most effective and natural way to save threatened species is to ensure that they have sufficient and suitable places to live-their natural habitat. It is also vital to
keep human pressures, such as hunting to a minimum. However, this is not always
possible, and emergency measures may be taken to save species on the brink of extinction.
Some species have been taken into captivity and bred there to build up their populations, before being returned to the wild. Success has been achieved with the European bison, the American buffalo, and also the Arabian Oryx. The Przewalskis horse is another candidate. Herds of this domestic horse ancestor have established with the hope of reintroduction to their native habitat, the Asian Stepps. Several zoos now specialize in breeding rare species. With the hope of re-establishing them in the wild. However, zoo animals may become too dependent upon people.
Wildlife resources, national parks, and sanctuaries of various kinds have been established throughout the world to try and preserve as much of our wildlife heritage as possible. Some seek to exclude people, while others try and involve local people, especially where traditional use of the habitat combines with conservation.
In most cases, the reserves may be visited by naturalists and tourists. But there are usually restrictions to protect the wildlife. Eco tourism, where income from visitors help conservation projects, is a fast-growing business.
The Everglades, a huge swamp at the tip of Florida, is a famous wildlife reserve. It is fed by fresh water seeping through it from a lake and river. The water forms pools, marshes, and meandering channels-it is one of the greatest wildlife sites in the world. The heart of this ecosystem is protected by the Everglades National Park, a Biosphere
Reserve and World Heritage Site covering 1.4 million acres. The Everglades is home to
rare species such as the Wood stork, Everglades kite, reddish egret, and the endangered Florida Panther, a local version of the puma.
There are many factors in the downfall of wildlife, some cannot be repaired, but others can be worked on and fixed. Wildlife extinction is a problem that has been ignored for many years, it has to be paid attention to and start to get solved.
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