Wildlife conservation is the practice of protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats. Among the goals of wildlife conservation are to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness lands to humans. Many nations have government agencies 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. The science of extinction is called dirology. An endangered species is defined as a population of a living being that is at the danger of becoming extinct because of several reasons. The reasons can include that the species has a very low population or is threatened by the varying environmental or prepositional parameters.
Major threats to wildlife
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 or degradation of habitat—is the primary threat to the survival of wildlife in the United States. When an ecosystem has been dramatically changed by human activities—such as agriculture, oil and gas exploration, commercial development or water diversion—it may no longer be able to provide the food, water, cover, and places to raise young. Every day there are fewer places left that wildlife can call home.
There are three major kinds of habitat loss:
- Habitat destruction: A bulldozer pushing down trees is the iconic image of habitat destruction. Other ways that people are directly destroying habitat, include filling in wetlands, dredging rivers, mowing fields, and cutting down trees.
- Habitat fragmentation: Much of the remaining terrestrial wildlife habitat in the U.S. has been cut up into fragments by roads and development. Aquatic species’ habitat has been fragmented by dams and water diversions. These fragments of habitat may not be large or connected enough to support species that need a large territory in which to find mates and food. The loss and fragmentation of habitat make it difficult for migratory species to find places to rest and feed along their migration routes.
- Habitat degradation: Pollution, invasive species and disruption of ecosystem processes (such as changing the intensity of fires in an ecosystem) are some of the ways habitats can become so degraded that they no longer support native 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 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, forest fires.
- Unregulated Hunting and poaching: Unregulated hunting and poaching causes a major threat to wildlife. Along with this, mismanagement of 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 chemical being widely used, making the environment toxic to certain plants, insects, and rodents.
- Perhaps the largest threat is the extreme growing indifference of the public to wildlife, conservation and environmental issues in general. Over-exploitation of resources, i.e., exploitation of wild populations for food has resulted in population crashes (over-fishing and over-grazing for example).
- Over exploitation is the over use 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. But today we are taking more than the natural world can supply. The danger is that if we take too many individuals of a species 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.
Today, the [Endangered Species Act] protects some U.S. species that were in danger from over exploitation, 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 over-harvested.
North American Model of Wildlife Conservation
The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is a set of principles that has guided management and conservation decisions in the United States and Canada. Although not formally articulated until 2001, the model has its origins in 19th century conservation movements, the near extinction of several species of wildlife (including the American Bison) and the rise of sportsmen with the middle class. Beginning in the 1860s sportsmen began to organize and advocate for the preservation of wilderness areas and wildlife. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation rests on two basic principles – fish and wildlife are for the non-commercial use of citizens, and should be managed such that they are available at optimum population levels forever. These core principles are elaborated upon in the seven major tenets of the model:
- Wildlife as Public Trust Resources.
- Elimination of Markets for Game.
- Allocation of Wildlife by Law
- Wildlife Should Only be Killed for a Legitimate Purpose
- Wildlife is Considered an International Resource
- Science is the Proper Tool for Discharge of Wildlife Policy
- Democracy of Hunting
Wildlife conservation as a government involvement
In 1972, the Government of India enacted a law called the Wildlife Conservation Act. Soon after enactment, a trend emerged whereby policymakers enacted regulations on conservation. State and non-state actors began to follow a detailed "framework" to work toward successful conservation. 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 Programme (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 over fishing. The main sections are as follows:
- The objectives of conservation and requirements for their achievement:
- Maintenance of essential ecological processes and life-support systems.
- Preservation of genetic diversity that is flora and fauna.
- Sustainable utilization of species and ecosystems.
- Priorities for national action:
- A framework for national and sub-national conservation strategies.
- Policy making and the integration of conservation and development.
- Environmental planning and rational use allocation.
- Priorities for international action:
- International action: law and assistance.
- Tropical forests and dry lands.
- A global programme for the protection of genetic resource areas.
- Tropical forests
- Deserts and areas subject to desertification.
As “major development agencies” became “discouraged with the public sector” of environmental conservation in the late 1980s, these agencies began to lean their support towards the “private sector” or non-government organizations (NGOs). In a World Bank Discussion Paper it is made apparent that “the explosive emergence of nongovernmental organizations” was widely known to government policy makers. Seeing this rise in NGO support, the U.S. Congress made amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act in 1979 and 1986 “earmarking U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds for biodiversity”. From 1990 moving through recent years environmental conservation in the NGO sector has become increasingly more focused on the political and economic impact of USAID given towards the “Environment and Natural Resources”. After the terror attacks on the World Trade Centers on September 11, 2001 and the start of former President Bush’s War on Terror, maintaining and improving the quality of the environment and natural resources became a “priority” to “prevent international tensions” according to the Legislation on Foreign Relations Through 2002 and section 117 of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act. Furthermore in 2002 U.S. Congress modified the section on endangered species of the previously amended Foreign Assistance Act.
Sec. 119.100 Endangered Species:
(a) The Congress finds the survival of many animals and plant species is endangered by over hunting, by the presence of toxic chemicals in water, air and soil, and by the destruction of habitats. The Congress further finds that the extinction of animal and plant species is an irreparable loss with potentially serious environmental and economic consequences for developing and developed countries alike. Accordingly, the preservation of animal and plant species through the regulation of the hunting and trade in endangered species, through limitations on the pollution of natural ecosystems, and through the protection of wildlife habitats should be an important objective of the United States development assistance.
(b) 100 In order to preserve biological diversity, the President is authorized to furnish assistance under this part, notwithstanding section 660,101 to assist countries in protecting and maintaining wildlife habitats and in developing sound wildlife management and plant conservation programs. Special efforts should be made to establish and maintain wildlife sanctuaries, reserves, and parks; to enact and enforce anti-poaching measures; and to identify, study, and catalog animal and plant species, especially in tropical environments.
The amendments to the section also included modifications on the section concerning "PVOs and other Nongovernmental Organizations." The section requires that PVOs and NGOs "to the fullest extent possible involve local people with all stages of design and implementation." These amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act and the recent[when?] rise in USAID funding towards foreign environmental conservation have led to several disagreements in terms of NGOs' role in foreign development.
Active non-government organizations
Many NGOs exist to actively promote, or be involved with wildlife conservation:
- The Nature Conservancy is a US charitable environmental organization that works to preserve the plants, animals, and natural communities that represent the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive.
- World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization working on issues regarding the conservation, research and restoration of the environment, formerly named the World Wildlife Fund, which remains its official name in Canada and the United States. It is the world's largest independent conservation organization with over 5 million supporters worldwide, working in more than 90 countries, supporting around 1300 conservation and environmental projects around the world. It is a charity, with approximately 60% of its funding coming from voluntary donations by private individuals. 45% of the fund's income comes from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- Wildlife Conservation Society
- Audubon Society
- Traffic (conservation programme)
- Safari Club International
- WildEarth Guardians
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