This is a short essay on wildlife conservation for students – probably more senior students. If you like it, or parts of it, feel free to copy or use it in any way you wish under a creative commons license.
The purpose of wildlife conservation is to protect wild flora and fauna against the encroachment of expanding human activity. The planet’s human population grew by 1.6 billion people between 1990 and 2010 (30% growth rate). The ever increasing amount of commercial activity that this brings with associated use and abuse of the earth’s resources damages the prospects of survival of wild flora and fauna.
Wildlife on continents such as Africa is particularly vulnerable to pressure from commercial activity because Africa’s population is expanding faster than any other continent and it is rich is natural resources which are being exploited by foreign powers involved in mass manufacturing. Access to minerals etc. results in mining activity which destroys the habitat of many species including the cheetah. Forests are logged to make way for palm oil plantations, which removes the habitat of the elusive African golden cat.
Perhaps the most famous of all wild creatures is the tiger. The fight over the conservation of the tiger is the classic battle between wildlife conservationists and big business. The truth is that the battle is being lost by the conservationists. The tiger population has been in consistent decline over 100 years. The Bengal tiger lives in India. The human population of India has grown by 40% over the period 1990-2010. Although the tiger lives on reserves and buffer zones around reserves they are not places untouched by commercial exploitation. The tiger is running out of space in which to live.
It is not simply that the human is relentlessly occupying the landscape that once belonged to wildlife. People like to use wildlife to turn a profit. The illegal international trade in live wild species is worth billions yearly. CITES, which is an international treaty to prevent trade in wildlife, is failing. Agreements depend on goodwill. Many governments are corrupt to varying degrees and some members of these governments personally benefit from this trade. This opens the door to illegal trade in wildlife, dead or alive.
Regarding flora, the greatest battle between conservationists and business is being played out in the virgin, ancient forests in places such as, Brazil, Borneo and Indonesia. These beautiful places have great commercial value. Many ancient trees are logged for such mundane products as photocopying paper. In destroying these forests many wildlife species are also gradually destroyed as the forest is their home and the home of their prey. The Borneo bay cat is being eradicated from the planet as it is only found in Bornean forests. The promotion of the concept of sustainably resourced timber is abused because it takes thousands of years to grow the sort of forests that are being cut down.
Despite fantastic work by conservationists, wildlife conservation is gradually losing the battle to save many species of plant and animal from extinction in the wild. This is because business, the main reason for population declines in wildlife, has greater financial resources than conservationists. Business is also more motivated and is constantly growing due to human population growth.
For conservation to become more successful it requires a greater involvement by the average person who is usually distanced from the issues and wildlife itself.
Governments are torn between the need to promote economic expansion and the quality of life of the people it represents. Governments choose growth. The universal model of economic growth has been the preferred way forward for generations of governments at the expense of nature.
People are on their own when it comes to wildlife conservation. At present, concerned people are unable to put a balance back into our relationship with wildlife, and nature in general.
A modern classic of the failure of people to find a sustainable balance between commerce and the earth’s resources is the depletion of cod in the North Sea to fewer than 100 mature, individual fish. Let us think about that for a while. Where there were once millions there are now almost none.
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