The IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a worldwide organisation that seeks to define, solve and denounce the planet’s environmental injustices. One of these, and one that proves that these problems do exist, is the list of endangered species across the world. Including both flora and fauna, the names on the list are important to remember so we can learn to protect them.
However, most people wouldn’t agree. According to the IUCN, most of the animals on the list of 100 most endangered species will not be protected simply because some people don’t see them as ‘having a positive impact’ for humans. Nothing could be further from the truth. (For the full list with details, click here.
Scientists are amongst those that disagree. When a species goes instinct, the entire community of wildlife become unbalanced and all are affected. The impact can range between simple loss of food for one species, to the rest becoming vulnerable to other issues that occur that have nothing to do with one plant or animal disappearing – such as global warming – and how all are going to survive within these new conditions.
The ‘weaker’ species – those that are more sensitive to change – are usually the ones to go first. This may or may not have an immediate negative impact, as another species may very well thrive without the lost one in its way. However, it doesn’t take long before a negative outcome presents itself. If the thriving plant or animal continues to grow without another one intervening to maintain the numbers, it may very well put a third species on the endangered list, thus creating a vicious cycle of loss of life. And, far too often, scientists lack the ability to predict which ones will survive and which ones won’t make it.
Take the tiger, for example. They are ‘top’ predators, meaning that there is no one hunting them (well, no one except humans, that is). Therefore, they help maintain deer, wild pig, antelope and gaur populations at natural levels, which means that these species don’t start overpopulating the areas where tigers live. If the tiger were to disappear, these species, which feed off vegetation, would expand and may start emptying their areas of the plants they eat, perhaps going as far as creating deserts. All small mammals, reptiles and insects that generally eat vegetation as well would not have anything to feed off any longer as well. These same animals would seek the closest source of food, which could very well be the closest farm, therefore eating what we are growing for ourselves and leaving us with much less than we need.
Loss of vegetation, be it the one we grow for food or the natural plants that grow in the wild, retain water and ensure we have safe drinking water. Without lakes and rivers, and without the technology to purify ocean water, we are left without the most important necessity – second to air only – for humankind.
They say that once bees have become extinct, humans only have four years left on this planet. Why are we playing Russian roulette with the very elements that keep us alive?
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Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)