At the top of the IUCN Red List last year sit’s far East Russia’s Amur Leopard. With only an estimated 70 left in the wild, you can't help but think about what we can do to protect the environments of our animals and those of the world alike so none of Africa’s rich animal tapestry ends up where the Amur Leopard sits today.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Our top man-fueled practices that contribute to extinction and the endangering of species are overhunting and other such overexploitation of resources, habitat destruction and degradation, climate change and pollution (particularly plastic pollution), and introduction of non-native species. In order to protect every creature it supports, the maintenance of our biodiversity and ecosystem health is paramount.
Let’s look at our top 4 causes of species extinction and endangerment and how we can overcome them:
Habitat loss through agricultural expansion, urbanization, and the release of pollutants, among other things, is a leading cause of species decline. The solution? Forming policies like protected areas and conservation agreements, as well as land-use planning.
A perfect example of the over-exploitation of resources that we’re all familiar with is the poaching of our beloved elephants and rhinos. As with every animal on Earth, these pachyderms play an integral role in the maintenance of many diverse ecosystems, and their dwindling numbers disrupt the equilibrium of everything around them. Once again, stricter policies/regulations on hunting, trading of wildlife and their products, and increased enforcement of these policies are crucial in mitigating this multi-factorial crisis.
Our endemic biodiversity in plants and animals alike is no stranger to non-native species. However, their over-introduction by man through trading and transportation disrupts the ecosystem balance and weakens the defenses of our endemic species. Early detection of these imbalances, followed by rapid control and eradication can help reverse these effects before they become lifelong.
Lastly, a not-so-silent killer that we are all aware of is climate change. Natural disasters like the recent earthquakes causing widespread devastation throughout Turkey and Syria are happening more and more often - and what’s worse, they’re happening every day, just on a smaller scale. Our animal and plant life are not exempt from such disasters, as we saw in the devastating 2019 - 2020 Australian bushfires. It’s no surprise that these shifts in habitat equilibrium and widespread destruction are a direct contributor to species extinction. With the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight than ever, it’s time to deploy our mitigation and adaptation efforts faster than ever before, fighting back before the clock’s final strike rings loud and true.
ARE WE ALL ALONE ON THIS MISSION?
CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity are international treaties dedicated to promoting the conservation and protection of our endangered species and their habitats. The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was released in 2015, with Goal 15 “Life on Land” being dedicated to protecting, restoring, and promoting the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, wetlands, and drylands.
The United Nations 2022 report, however, depicts the agenda to be in “grave danger”, along with “humanity’s own survival.” The report further states that we have around 40,000 species at risk of extinction in the coming decades, while 10 million hectares of forest and all life they support are decimated every year. Another shocking piece of information is that over half of key biodiversity areas remain unprotected. While many countries are conserving and maintaining their forests, such efforts overall have been largely neglected in pandemic recovery plans. Needless to say, with 2030 looming not too far ahead, we are very much not on track to achieve any of the 17 goals outlined in the agenda.
WHAT CAN I DO?
Now that we’re aware of all the doomsday blues, what can we do to fight alongside our animals and African backdrops? By supporting conservation organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and The Nature Trust, avoiding the use of any wildlife products, and lowering your carbon footprint, you can join us wildlife warriors in protecting all life as we know it before it’s too late.
The latest research tells us it’s not too late, but we need to act now - all of us need to act now. Things may seem dark and overwhelming and defeated, but it’s always darkest before the dawn.
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
THE EXTRA MILE
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