Habitat destruction threatens the continued survival of animal, marine, and bird species on planet Earth. As our human footprint increased we not only destroyed forests by cutting trees, and the animal kingdom by poaching but have contaminated the air, earth, and oceans with fossil fuels, heavy metals, pesticides, oil spills, plastic waste, and more. With seven billion humans on earth are we keeping place for other species to co-exist? Today, amidst the exploding pressure and contamination on earth, there is a need for more than a movement or action – a need to recognize endangered species from extinction and and to protect their habitats to survive for future generations called Wildlife Conservation. Let’s Save a SPECIES and save EARTH!
The meaning of Wildlife Conservation
Wildlife conservation or habitat conservation is the practice of protecting wild species and their habitats essential to restore or enhance the natural ecosystems needed for the survival of the species within it. Wildlife Conservation needed to save different species from extinction. It is achieved partially through legislation, the establishment and protection of public lands, and responsible public practices to conserve wild animal populations.
While the Conservation Movement began as early as in the 1890s, it was in 1906, that it began to gain support when Theodore Roosevelt established a law under United States Forest Service to create five national parks. What followed were other conservation agreements like,
- 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the United States.
- 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- 1980 the World Conservation Strategy by the IUCN along with the UN Environmental Programme, World Wildlife Fund, UN Food and Agricultural Organization, and UNESCO.
- 1992 the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at Rio Earth Summit.
The NGOs dedicated to conservation
By the late 1980s, to give a boost to government environmental conservation efforts, several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became involved with wildlife conservation. Some of the prominent one’s include:
- World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
- The Nature Conservancy
- Conservation International
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- Audubon Society
- Born Free Foundation
- African Wildlife Defence Force
- Save Cambodia’s Wildlife
- WildEarth Guardians
The Risk, the Efforts
Today conservation experts believe due to growing civilization and wrongful human activities, the animal, bird, mammal, and fish species are facing a rate of extinction that is about 1000 times greater than its ‘normal’ extinction rate.
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), is a global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it. Today has 1,400 member organisations and has more than 17,000 experts working and addressing issues like climate change, biodiversity, forests, protected areas, global policies, and governance that affects endangered species.
Out of 120,372 species assessed by IUCN, there are 32,441 threatened by extinction. Of these, 25% are mammals, 14% are birds, and 40% are amphibians. Further, a 2019 UN report on global biodiversity extrapolated IUCN data to all species estimating that close to 1 million species worldwide could face extinction. Given numerous limitations on resources and on the knowledge of humans to understand how crucial a species is in the ecosystem, many species continue to face the wrath of extinction.
The efforts of the Conservationists
Monitoring endangered species and creating an awareness of wildlife populations from the Amazons to Congo rain forests is a constant effort by conservationists like Camille Coudrat, Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, Marlin Perkins, Sir David Attenborough, Jeff Corwin, and Steve Irwin. From Asian elephants to leatherback sea turtle to red-cockaded woodpecker have been saved from extinction due to the timely intervention and efforts of few.
There are direct or indirect metrics used to monitor which include direct observation, mark-recapture, geographic distribution, borrow counts, and genetic diversity among others.
On May 6, 2020, 6 conservationists received the Whitley wildlife conservation awards. They are:
She is the Gold Award winner. She has largely contributed to saving Tapirs, the largest land mammals in South America considered living fossils, from facing the destruction of their habitat owing to the expansion of large-scale agriculture, cattle ranching, and mining.
Abdullahi Hussein Ali
A native of Kenya Ali founded the Hirola Conservation Programme to prevent the species living in the Kenya-Somalia border, from being wiped out. Hirola numbers have declined to less than 500 which is over 95% decline in numbers in the last 40 years.
Rachel Ashegbofe Ikemeh
A Nigerian and director of the Niger Delta Forest Project, she won the award for her work with Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzee that was declared the most endangered of all chimpanzee groups since 2012.
In Bhutan, Phuntsho Thinley, the wildlife biologist, works in the Lingzhi park range to preserve the endangered alpine musk deer. Poachers kill an estimated 100 male species in the country each year for its musk pod, which is worth more than gold on the international black market for its perceived pharmaceutical properties.
Yokyok ‘Yoki’ Hadiprakarsa
This Indonesian conservationist received £40,000 for protecting the critically endangered bird from poachers who illegally sell the bird/birds head mainly in Borneo where the Dayaks believe the birds are the guardian of life and will guide them to God. He also founded the Indonesia Hornbill Conservation Society.
The Frog Lady of South Africa works for the Endangered Wildlife Trust. She and her team conserve the critically endangered Amathole toad, which had not been seen for more than 13 years until Tarrant re-discovered it in 2011.
Gabriela Rezende from Brazil has worked to protect the black lion tamarin monkey the only primate species endemic to Pontal do Paranapanema region, of Sao Paulo which holds the largest remnants of interior Atlantic forest.
Slow not failed effort
“The more humanity exploits nature in unsustainable ways and undermines its contributions to people, the more we undermine our own wellbeing, security and prosperity,” says Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, executive secretary of the CBD.
Though Global Biodiversity Outlook-V report (published September 15, 2020) states that 170 countries failed to meet the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets, established under the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 2010, six of the targets, including the eradication of invasive species, and preservation of biodiversity on protected areas, have been achieved partially.
The report also states the global rate of deforestation has fallen by one-third in the last 10 years. Countries have introduced policies around illegal and unreported fishing, sustained level of firewood, etc.
The efforts have begun even if only at snail’s speed…