Wildlife Conservation – The Weak Link

In present times when Global Warming, E-waste, Waste management, et al take centre stage when it to comes to policies and debates on environmental conservation, the four- legged one and his habitat are more often than not neglected. Wildlife Conservation as an issue has been recognized for long now but has not been given the serious brainstorming or policy regulation and framework as some of its contemporaries.


Stone Age people and hunter-gatherers relied on wildlife, both plant and animal, for their food and hunting, fishing, or gathering wildlife is still a significant food source in some parts of the world. In other areas, hunting and non-commercial fishing are mainly seen as a game or sport. It is believed that increasing demand for wildlife as a source of traditional food in East Asia is decimating populations of sharks, primates, pangolins, which they believe have aphrodisiac properties. Recent TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) reports have showed illegal poaching and trade of a large number species particularly in Malaysia and the Amazon forest. Sold as primarily food items, others are often meant for pet trade smuggled illegally into the United Nations. The Amazon species are popular ingredients in traditional medicines sold in local markets. In this regard, it is however important to remember that such usage in only based on superstition and traditional belief and not scientific backing. Added to this, is the destruction of the natural habitat by the humans, a resultant of the forces of urbanization, industrialization and the need to secure more land for agriculture.


It is important to remember however that all wild populations of living things plants included have developed many complex intertwining links with other living things around them over the years hence potential harm to one might mean the destruction of the very ecosystem. Also referred to as a Domino effect, this series of chain reactions is by far the 1most destructive process that can occur in any ecological community.


Habitat destruction vastly increases an area’s vulnerability to natural disasters like flood and drought, crop failure, spread of disease, and water contamination. Probably the most profound impact that habitat destruction has on people is the loss of many valuable ecosystem services. Habitat destruction has altered nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, and carbon cycles, which has increased the frequency and severity of acid rain, algal blooms, and fish kills in rivers and oceans and contributed tremendously to global climate change hence adding to a wider problem. For the animals this means just one thing, Extinction.


Since illegal trade crosses international boundaries and the effects of habitat destruction are profound, it calls for a universal policy for wildlife protection, unlike the current CITES that just identifies and enlists the endangered species. The need to is to push Habitat corridors beyond international borders (for e.g. India and Tibet for the Tibetan Ibex) to give the animals a wider access to a endangered ecosystem as also to make the rangers work easier due to the possibility of a work division.


It is important for policy makers at all levels to also understand the complex nature of the ecosystems, the forces leading to its destruction and then enact laws for the same. Added to this, afforestation programs, technological inputs to increase agricultural output, family planning programs in high population areas and educating local people about the importance of wildlife protection will go in a long way in achieving the desired results.


Mridul Kumar



[Image source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/flametree/145019107/]