IN this article, You will read about Wildlife, Problems of Wildlife, and Wildlife Conservation for UPSC(Biogeography).
Wildlife traditionally refers to undomesticated animal species but has come to include all plants, fungi, and other organisms that grow or live wild in an area without being introduced by humans.
Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems. Deserts, forests, rain forests, plains, grasslands, and other areas including the most developed urban areas, all have distinct forms of wildlife. While the term in popular culture usually refers to animals that are untouched by human factors, most scientists agree that much wildlife is affected by human activities.
Biologists estimate there are between 5 and 15 million species of plants, animals, and micro-organisms existing on Earth today, of which only about 1.5 million have been described and named. The estimated total includes around 300,000 plant species, between 4 and 8 million insects, and about 50,000 vertebrate species (of which about 10,000 are birds and 4,000 are mammals).
Problems of Wildlife
- Today, about 23% (1,130 species) of mammals and 12% (1,194 species) of birds are considered as threatened by IUCN.
- According to various surveys and reports, our planet has lost more than 58% of its wildlife since 1970 and is experiencing the sixth mass extinction. The 2016 Living Planet Report reveals the troubling extent of this and other environmental crises around the world, but it also sheds light on the ways we can still protect and rehabilitate what’s left. An index compiled with data from the Zoological Society of London to measure the abundance of biodiversity was down 58 percent from 1970 to 2012 and would fall 67 percent by 2020 on current trends, the WWF said in a report.
- In 1972, The Wildlife Conservation Act was passed by the Government of India. In 1980, The World Conservation Strategy was developed by the “International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources” (IUCN) with assistance from The United Nations Environment Program and the World Wildlife Fund and in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of UN and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
- Global biodiversity is being lost much faster than natural extinction due to changes in land use, unsustainable use of natural resources, invasive alien species, climate change, and pollution among others. Land conversion by humans, resulting in natural habitat loss, is most evident in tropical forests and is less intensive in temperate, boreal, and arctic regions. Pollution from atmospheric nitrogen deposition is most severe in northern temperate areas close to urban centers, and the introduction of damaging alien species is usually brought about through patterns of human activity.
- Species loss is also compounded by:
- The ongoing growth of human populations and unsustainable consumer lifestyles
- Increasing production of waste and pollutants
- Urban development
- International conflict.
- Fewer natural wildlife habitat areas remain each year. Moreover, the habitat that remains has often been degraded to bear little resemblance to the wild areas which existed in the past. Habitat loss due to destruction, fragmentation, and degradation of habitat is the primary threat to the survival of wildlife.
- Climate Change: Global warming is making hot days hotter, rainfall and flooding heavier, hurricanes stronger and droughts more severe. This intensification of weather and climate extremes will be the most visible impact of global warming in our everyday lives. It is also causing dangerous changes to the landscape of our world, adding stress to wildlife species and their habitat. Since many types of plants and animals have specific habitat requirements, climate change could cause a disastrous loss of wildlife species. A slight drop or rise in average rainfall will translate into large seasonal changes. Hibernating mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects are harmed and disturbed. Plants and wildlife are sensitive to moisture change so, they will be harmed by any change in moisture level. Natural phenomena like floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, lightning, and forest fires also affect wildlife.
- Unregulated Hunting and poaching: Unregulated hunting and poaching cause a major threat to wildlife. Along with this, mismanagement of the forest department and forest guards triggers this problem.
- Pollution: Pollutants released into the environment are ingested by a wide variety of organisms. Pesticides and toxic chemicals being widely used, making the environment toxic to certain plants, insects, and rodents.
- Over-exploitation: Overexploitation is the overuse of wildlife and plant species by people for food, clothing, pets, medicine, sport, and many other purposes. People have always depended on wildlife and plants for food, clothing, medicine, shelter, and many other needs. More resources are being consumed than the natural world can supply. The danger is that if too many individuals of a species are taken from their natural environment, the species may no longer be able to survive. The loss of one species can affect many other species in an ecosystem. The hunting, trapping, collecting, and fishing of wildlife at unsustainable levels is not something new. The passenger pigeon was hunted to extinction, early in the last century, and over-hunting nearly caused the extinction of the American bison and several species of whales.
- Deforestation: Humans are continually expanding and developing, leading to an invasion of wildlife habitats. As humans continue to grow, they clear forested land to create more space. This stresses wildlife populations as there are fewer homes and food sources for wildlife to survive.
- Population: The increasing population of human beings is a major threat to wildlife. More people on the globe means more consumption of food, water, and fuel, therefore more waste is generated. Major threats to wildlife are directly related to the increasing population of human beings. A low population of humans results in less disturbance to wildlife.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
- IUCN is a membership Union uniquely composed of both government and civil society organizations.
- Created in 1948, it is the global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
- It is headquartered in Switzerland.
- The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species.
- It uses a set of quantitative criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of species. These criteria are relevant to most species and all regions of the world.
- The IUCN Red List Categories define the extinction risk of species assessed. Nine categories extend from NE (Not Evaluated) to EX (Extinct). Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), and Vulnerable (VU) species are considered to be threatened with extinction.
- It is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity.
- It is also a key indicator for the SDGs and Aichi Targets.
Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitat. Wildlife plays an important role in balancing the ecosystem and provides stability to different natural processes of nature. The goal of wildlife conservation is to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and also to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness for humans and other species alike. Many nations have government agencies and NGO’s dedicated to wildlife conservation, which help to implement policies designed to protect wildlife. Numerous independent non-profit organizations also promote various wildlife conservation causes.
Wildlife conservation has become an increasingly important practice due to the negative effects of human activity on wildlife. An endangered species is defined as a population of a living species that are in the danger of becoming extinct because the species has a very low or falling population, or because they are threatened by the varying environmental or prepositional parameters.
In 1972, the Government of India enacted a law called the Wild Life (Protection) Act. In America, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects some U.S. species that were in danger from overexploitation, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) works to prevent the global trade of wildlife, but there are many species that are not protected from being illegally traded or being over-harvested.
The World Conservation Strategy was developed in 1980 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) with advice, cooperation, and financial assistance of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund and in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)” The strategy aims to “provide an intellectual framework and practical guidance for conservation actions.” This thorough guidebook covers everything from the intended “users” of the strategy to its very priorities. It even includes a map section containing areas that have large seafood consumption and are therefore endangered by overfishing.