Aristotle wrote a 10-book series, History of Animals, in 350 BC, believing that species were eternal; they had always existed and would continue to exist forever. Little did he know back then that the concept of extinction will eventually be turned into a reality by the conscious actions of his fellow humans.
Why is one species singlehandedly making it difficult for other forms of life to exist?
There is hardly a thing called ‘natural cause of death’ for the animals and plants of the planet because apart from aging, all other such causes derive from human activity in one way or another. WWF predicts that global warming would entirely kill polar bears in the next 20 years. 1 in 6 animal and plant species will go extinct due to climate change which is caused by carbon emissions mostly resulting from burning fossil fuels, industrial development and urbanization.
The demand for illegal wildlife products has encouraged poaching and trafficking of rare flora and fauna for decades. Since 1960, the black rhino population has decreased by 97.6% due to poaching. Approx. 35,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory which is used to create jewellery, utensils etc. To obtain this ivory, a very large chunk out of the Elephant’s face and skull needs to be removed and, in most cases, it is done even before the elephant is dead. These body parts fetch huge chunks of money in the black market. Big-horned sheep antlers can cost $20,000 on the black market, baby gorillas are sold for up to $40,000. A lot of times, this money goes into financing terrorism and wars. Abolishing the demand for animal body parts is indispensable in eliminating the abuse committed to ensure the supply.
Most poaching is done by organized crime syndicates who use high-powered technology and weaponry to hunt and kill animals without being detected. However, recently, a lot of advanced analytics and mapping techniques have come up to stop crimes against endangered animals. Thermal imagery cameras are being used to track illegal entry into parks and protected areas. An app called Hejje has been indigenously developed in India and launched in Bandipur, a prime tiger habitat, to enable vigorous monitoring and better coordination of patrolling activities apart from facilitating real time decision making through the instant photo messaging feature. In Africa, elephants wear GPS Smartphone tracking devices and researches are notified when something out of the ordinary happens. Wildscan, an app launched in Vietnam, helps law enforcement officers identify, handle and report illegally trafficked wildlife. Wildleaks is a website that allows users to anonymously report crimes against wildlife. Sometimes raising an awareness is all you need to trigger a favourable action.
The world’s forests are lost at a rate of as many as 36 football fields a minute. Excessive habitat loss and fragmentation has forced many species to live in small, isolated pockets which makes them more exposed to cruelties against them. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, a future with zero net global deforestation is possible with the right mix of policies, social action and political will.
Crowdfunding is an up and coming method to combat crimes against wildlife. Ranger forces and conservationists are turning to crowdfunding sites to pay for tools such as drones, vehicles and other necessary equipment.
Far from a fringe concern, animals are integral to pressing international problems, especially those concerning sustainability. Humans need to make choices that affirm diversity and not devalue it.