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Global Wildlife Conservation

by Saikat Kumar Basu*
Guyana Journal, August 2009


The recent publication of the seminal study entitled, THE STATUS OF THE WORLD'S LAND AND MARINE MAMMALS: DIVERSITY, THREAT, AND KNOWLEDGES by Schipper et al. in Science (Science. 2008. Vol. 322: 225-230) is sad and alarming news, where the researchers have reported that one in every four mammal species on earth is threatened with extinction. Their estimates are based on a study of 1139 mammalian species for which adequate data is available. However, it is important to note that in addition to the factors mentioned by the authors (such as climate change, environmental pollution, poaching, harvesting, diseases, habitat loss and degradation), there is a large number of other unseen and often neglected factors associated with the endangerment of global mammal populations particularly in developing and under developed countries.

Some of these factors include overgrazing of cattle and livestock in forested areas due to the absence of costly and scientifically managed forage pastures, reducing food supply of the wildlife, in addition to the danger of transmitting infectious diseases such as anthrax; forest fires
1, rampant mining activities2, unrestricted deforestation and logging practices1, habitat encroachment and habitat fragmentation at an alarming rate3,4; infringement of forested areas by fringe dwellers resulting in greater human-mammal conflicts5,6; accidental road kills due to unplanned construction of highways and railway tracks across important wildlife corridors7; migration of people into forest areas for daily sustenance due to long standing poverty and economic failures pushing fringe dwellers to be more and more dependent on scanty forest resources8; forest infiltration by anarchists, guerrilla warriors, drug dealers9 and terrorists in different parts of the globe to avoid direct confrontation with security forces; thriving bush-meat trade due to scarcity of easy and affordable alternate dietary protein and other basic food supplies1. In addition, degrading economy, political instability, social unrest and civil wars, increase in human population beyond the carrying capacity of the locally available resources10, unemployment, illiteracy, poor level of community awareness, and non-empowerment of women in rural and forested areas are important cumulative anthropogenic factors depleting mammalian populations across the planet.

Unless these human factors are taken seriously and appropriate remediation measures are adopted world wide, the unfortunate depletion of mammalian and other wildlife species will continue to haunt us. Scipper et al. (2008), highlight the plight of mammals; however, similar trends are also expected in other animal and plant species, impacted by several of these factors as discussed above. For a biodiversity rich country like India, this seminal study carries a very important message and that is to work right now to address these issues.



*Department of Biological Sciences
University of Lethbridge
Lethbridge, AB Canada T1K 3M4
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References
1. N.S. Sodhi, L. P. Koh, B. W. Brook, P. K. L. Ng, Trends Ecol Evol. 2004, 19, 654-660.
2. G. Hilson, F. Nyame, Area. 2006, 38, 175-185.
3. L Fahrig, J. Wildl. Manage. 1997, 61, 603-610.
4. G. Jansson, H. Anderson, Scandinavian J Forest Res. 2003, 18, 25-236.
5. R. E. Hoare, J. Appl Ecol. 2001, 36, 689-700.
6. A. Treves, K. U. Karnath, Conserv Biol. 2003, 17, 1491-1499.
7. A. B. Madsen, H. Strandgaard, A. Prang, Wildl Biol. 2002, 8, 55-61.
8. K. S. Bawa, S. Dayanandan, Nature. 1997, 386, 562-563.
9. C. Q. Choi, Scientific American. 2008, 299, 28-30.
10. E. H. Bulte, R. D. Horan, J. Wildl. Manage. 2002, 66, 574-580.
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