Written By: Advaitha Reddy, First Year, St. Francis College for Women, Begumpet
Wildlife generally refers to the animals and plants that have not been domesticated by humans. However, this does not mean that their lives do not interfere with humans’. Prehistoric humans constantly struggled with wildlife. Both sides were sometimes predators and sometimes prey, but humans quickly tipped the balance in their favor with two big advantages: superior intellect and weapons. As humans gained more control over nature, they began using wild animals not just as a food source but as a source of labor and entertainment. Aquatic life includes plants or animals growing in or near water. Aquaculture is the controlled or semi-controlled production of aquatic plants and animals. It has increased at double-digit percentage rates since the early 1980s. This increase has been in response to declines in commercial harvests of wild stocks of fish and shellfish. Oceans of the world are currently at maximum sustainable yield.
Destruction of wildlife and Aquatic Life
It is well known that our wildlife and aquatic life is in danger. The major issues include Habitat loss, overexploitation, poaching, hunting, pollution, and climate change. Habitat loss occurs due to deforestation which reduces the area for the animals. Overexploitation is putting more species on an extinction pathway than any other threat. Large mammals such as the tiger, rhinoceros, lion, and elephant once faced the distinct possibility of complete extinction due to rampant hunting and poaching. Wild animals face new challenges for survival because of climate change. More frequent and intense drought, storms, heatwaves, rising sea levels, melting glaciers and warming oceans can directly harm animals, destroy the places they live, and wreak havoc on people's livelihoods and communities. We are all well aware of the problems caused to aquatic life, for example, plastic, dumping waste, overfishing, acidification, etc.
Latest News on Wildlife destructions:
1. Wildlife rescuers fear the koala population decimated further by habitat destruction. Rescuers now fear that far more than the 350 koalas previously estimated to have perished have died as the true horror of the bushfire crisis becomes clear. Shocking new estimates from wildlife advocates have put the number of koalas killed in recent bushfires far higher than previously thought.
2. Last Sumatran rhino dies in Malaysia, the smallest rhino species now extinct in Malaysia. Malaysia's last Sumatran rhinoceros died on Saturday leaving only a tiny number of the smallest rhino species alive, mostly in Indonesia.
3. Despite the efforts we have made in recycling plastics, researchers say micro and nano plastics can still be in the air and do potential harm to aquatic life. Stacy Harper, an assistant professor at OSU says that plastic debris is all over our aquatic systems.
Another important issue related to wildlife is the sixth extinction also known as Holocene extinction. It is described as a “biological annihilation” of wildlife. is an ongoing extinction event of species during the present Holoceneepoch (which is the current period of geological time) as a result of human activity. Our planet has already experienced five major mass extinctions events, and today, human activity on Earth starts the sixth one. Among terrestrial vertebrates, 322 species have become extinct since 1500, and populations of the remaining species show a 25% average decline in abundance. More than 99% of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. During the first extinction occurred 444 million years ago. During second mass extinction occurred during 375 million years ago, and Earth lost 75% of species. In the third extinction, that occurred 251 million years ago, 96% of marine and 70% of terrestrial species were lost. The next event occurred about 200 million years ago where we lost 80% of our biodiversity. And the fifth and last occurred about 66 million years ago and about 76% of all species were killed and that is when we lost our dinosaurs.
The present extinction is 100-1000 times higher than the usual extinction rate. Statistics show that in thousands of populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish across the globe provides us with even more tragic statistics: populations of terrestrial species declined by 38% between 1970 and 2012.
These include the organisms that are threatened by extinction. Some of the reasons for animals to become endangered are loss of habitat or loss of genetic variation.
Loss of habitat A well-known example of which is the extinction of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs lost their habitat about 65 million years ago. The hot, dry climate of the Cretaceous period changed very quickly, most likely because of an asteroid striking the Earth. The impact of the asteroid forced debris into the atmosphere, reducing the amount of heat and light that reached Earth’s surface. The dinosaurs were unable to adapt to this new, cooler habitat. Dinosaurs became endangered, then extinct. Human activity can also contribute to a loss of habitat. Development for housing, industry, and agriculture reduces the habitat of native organisms. This can happen in several different ways.
Loss of Genetic VariationGenetic variation is the diversity found within a species. It's why human beings may have Black, Brown, blonde or Red hair. Genetic Variation also allows organisms to adapt to different environmental changes. Loss of Genetic variation may occur by inbreeding depression, which happens due to the continuous breeding of animals within the same family. By inbreeding, there is no chance for genetic variation. Loss can also occur naturally; Cheetahs are a threatened species native to Africa and Asia. These big cats have very little genetic variation. Biologists say that during the last ice age, cheetahs went through a long period of inbreeding. As a result, there are very few genetic differences between cheetahs. They cannot adapt to changes in the environment as quickly as other animals, and fewer cheetahs survive to maturity. And inevitably, Human activity can also lead to a loss of genetic variation. Overhunting and overfishing have reduced the populations of many animals. Reduced population means there are fewer breeding pairs.
It is described as the termination of an animal or plant. With the death of the last animal of a species, it is considered extinction. Extinction is a natural process, after all, more than 90 percent of all organisms that have ever lived on Earth aren’t alive today. But humans have made it worse, accelerating natural extinction rates due to our role in habitat loss, climate change, invasive species, disease, overfishing, and hunting. “We’re losing whole suites of species that have distinct ecological roles to play,” says Stuart Pimm, Professor of Conservation at Duke University. For instance, top predators such as sea otters and sharks have dwindled, throwing their ecosystems off-kilter. Dozens of new species go extinct every day, and scientists say that more than 20,000 plants and animals are on the brink of disappearing forever. A quarter of known mammal species is at risk of extinction. The main body that tracks species decline is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The organization evaluates species in the wild, and, along with data from a variety of sources, categorizes their vulnerability on its Red List of Threatened Species.
In 1964, a Red List of endangered species was founded by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). It keeps track of species that have undergone global assessments of their extinction risk and sorts them into eight categories: data deficient, least concern, near threatened, vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered, extinct in the wild and extinct.
The IUCN consists of a list of the statistics of all the increasing or decreasing numbers of animals.
It is not only important to know about the wildlife, but also know and execute steps to converse and preserve wildlife and animals. There is still hunting and poaching of animals, birds, etc. that are taking place, against whom the rules are not strict enough. This needs to change. Poaching and hunting are the unmerciful killings of animals for food, their body parts, skin or leather or just cause.
· More National parks and sanctuaries should be established for preserving endangered animals.
· Research and cause for the extinction news to be unfolded and steps to conserve them must be taken place.
· We as individuals can volunteer and join various organizations to make a difference.
· And something that we have heard over a lot of years is reducing pollution. But unfortunately, even after so many years and lessons people still do not follow simple steps, like no littering, no plastic, etc.
· As the population is increasing, there is a need for more land area, which is causing deforestation. An example is the Aarey forest, where the forest is being destroyed for building the metro car shed. In such cases, all humans as a society can do is protest and fight against such measures.
All in all, the wildlife is an important part of the ecosystem. It gives a balance that is needed for the survival of all animals, plants, and humans.