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Cancers > Wild Life
Only moments ago in biological time, the earth abounded with a myriad of mammals, reptiles and fish that ran afoul of the iron laws of evolution and natural disaster, and are now extinct. But the most devastating killer has been man. Since 1600, when the first precise records were compiled, man has butchered creatures ranging from the abalone to the blue whale and the zebra. "During the past 150 years," says Ecologist Lee M. Talbot of the Smithsonian Institution, "the rate of extermination of mammals has increased 55-fold. If the killing goes on at this pace, in about 30 years all of the remaining 4,062 species of mammals will be gone." A scare story? Not quite. Today, the authoritative "red data book" of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists 835 "endangered species and subspecies" that hover on the brink of extinction.

Wildlife can be found in all ecosystems, Deserts, rain forests, plains, and other areas—including the most developed urban sites—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 wildlife around the world is impacted by human activities. Human needs are increasing day by day and there is no stopping to it. In this process of satisfying human need innocent animals are killed every day throughout the globe for oil, skin, bones, and meat.

The threat to wild species from habitat degradation is set to accelerate in the coming years. Large areas of forests were cleared to accommodate a burgeoning population. The great majority of Indians cook their food on firewood, using something like 300 million tons of it annually, of which less than one third is extracted sustainably. This in itself is a time bomb. Extraction of fuel wood, fodder and other non-timber forest produce including medicinal plants are already documented at unsustainable levels. As there are really no alternatives available to the people dependent upon these resources, any regulation of use can only bring social discord, often militancy in many regions which is eroding the authority of the State.

The four most general reasons that lead to destruction of wildlife include overkill, habitat destruction and fragmentation, impact of introduced species and chains of extinction.

Overkill

Overkill occurs whenever hunting occurs at rates greater than the reproductive capacity of the population is being exploited. The effects of this are often noticed much more dramatically in slow growing populations such as many larger species of fish. Initially when a portion of a wild population is hunted, an increased availability of resources (food, etc) is experienced increasing growth and reproduction as Density dependent inhibition is lowered. Hunting, fishing and so on, has lowered the competition between members of a population. However, if this hunting continues at rate greater than the rate at which new members of the population can reach breeding age and produce more young, the population will begin to decrease in numbers.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation

The habitat of any given species is considered its preferred area or territory. Many processes associated human habitation of an area cause loss of this area and the decrease the carrying capacity of the land for that species. In many cases these changes in land use cause a patchy break-up of the wild landscape. Agricultural land frequently displays this type of extremely fragmented, or relictual, habitat. Farms sprawl across the landscape with patches of uncleared woodland or forest dotted in-between occasional paddocks.

Examples of habitat destruction include grazing of bush land by farmed animals, changes to natural fire regimes, forest clearing for timber production and wetland draining for city expansion.

Impact of introduced species

Mice, cats, rabbits, dandelions and poison ivy are all examples of species that have become invasive threats to wild species in various parts of the world. Frequently species that are uncommon in their home range become out-of-control invasions in distant but similar climates. The reasons for this have not always been clear and Charles Darwin felt it was unlikely that exotic species would ever be able to grow abundantly in a place in which they had not evolved. The reality is that the vast majority of species exposed to a new habitat do not reproduce successfully. Occasionally, however, some populations do take hold and after a period of acclimation can increase in numbers significantly, having destructive effects on many elements of the native environment of which they have become part.

Chains of extinction

This final group is one of secondary effects. All wild populations of living things have many complex intertwining links with other living things around them. Large herbivorous animals such as the hippopotamus have populations of insectivorous birds that feed off the many parasitic insects that grow on the hippo. Should the hippo die out so too will these groups of birds, leading to further destruction as other species dependent on the birds are affected. Also referred to as a Domino effect, this series of chain reactions is by far the most destructive process that can occur in any ecological community.

Global Warming

The effects of Global Warming may be measured in extinctions, not degrees. The consensus of the world's leading scientists is that global warming is real and already under way. For natural ecosystems around the globe, its effects could be devastating. All plants and animals, no matter where they live, will be affected in some way. A changing climate has the potential to lead to the mass extinction of numerous species.

Here are some ways we can help all wildlife:
  • Support zoos, animal reserves, and organizations that help animals. Volunteer your money, time and ideas.

  • Avoid buying any products made from endangered animals.

  • Learn all about endangered animals and share this information with everyone.

  • Put out food and water for birds, especially in winter or stormy periods (short period of time).

  • Find out about your local conservation groups that work to protect animals. Ask how you can help them.

  • Do not disturb the natural environment of wildlife. Do not feed wildlife as they will become dependent on human feeding.

  • Don’t pollute your environment especially streams, lakes, and the oceans.
 
 
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