The practice of protecting plant and animal species and their habitats, is known as Wildlife Conservation. As part of the world’s ecosystems, wildlife provides balance and stability to nature’s processes. The goal of wildlife conservation is to ensure the survival of these species, and to educate people on living sustainably with other species. Wildlife conservation is essential to maintain healthy wildlife species or populations and to restore, protect or enhance natural ecosystems.
National and international organizations like the World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the United Nations work to support global animal and habitat conservation efforts on many different fronts. They work with the governments to establish and protect public lands, like national parks and wildlife refuges.
Wildlife conservation aims at protecting plant and animal species and their habitats. As part of the world’s ecosystems, wildlife provides balance and stability to nature’s processes. The goal of wildlife conservation is to ensure the survival of these species, and to educate people on living sustainably with other species.
Some species cannot survive outside of their own natural habitat without human intervention such as in zoos and aquariums. The destruction of their natural habitats poses a real threat to their survival. Furthermore, species that migrate and inhabit more than one natural habitat are also vulnerable. Therefore, the preservation of these habitats helps to prevent the entire ecosystem being harmed.
The Mother Nature requires that different species stay connected by means of various food webs. It means that the extinction of one particular species might influence one or more other species down the line. Conserving wildlife can be a preventive step to stay safe prior to any unforeseeable environmental issue.
From the mighty tiger to the humble worker bee, the huge variety of life on Earth contributes to our lives and well-being in more ways than we think. From offering a wealth of natural medicines to safeguarding us from climate shocks and improving soil health, we need wildlife for our survival, well-being and prosperity.
Since ancient times, human societies and economies have relied on biodiversity in fundamental ways. By way of example, countless species of wild fauna and flora are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food and in the manufacture of health care products, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics and clothing.
Ecosystems and their biological diversity underpin human well-being and provide vital “services,” essential to national economies. The increasing degradation of ecosystems and wildlife habitats and associated loss of biological diversity is becoming a national crisis. Protection of wildlife habitats and conservation of their floral and faunal values must, therefore, be also recognized as the country’s greatest priority.
“Saving wildlife and wilderness is the responsibility of all thinking people. Greed and personal gain must not be permitted to decimate, despoil and destroy the earth’s irreplaceable treasure for its existence is essential to the human spirit and the well-being of the earth as a whole. All life has just one home – the earth, and we as the dominant species must take care of it.” Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick
Importance of wildlife conservation may be understood from the following discussion—
Wildlife has played an important role in the development of clothing, medical materials, experimental models, and scientific research. Animal skins and fur have been used for clothing for millennia, and even today are symbols of fashion. Timber, firewood, paper, gum, resins, tannins, several drugs, essential oils, spices, silk, honey, hair, feathers, guano (the dung of sea-fish used as manure or the manure made from fish), leather, musk, ivory etc. are obtained from wildlife. Likewise, the wild animal products such as meat, medicines, hide, ivory, lac, silk, etc. are of tremendous economic value.
Chemicals from nature have been a part of human civilization ever since our early ancestors began using them to improve and enrich their own lives. Today, they continue to provide valuable knowledge to researchers and medical practitioners with crucial implications for medical sciences. Amphibians are especially important for modern medicine with compounds extracted from frogs alone used for treating depression, seizures, strokes and memory loss.
Conservation International reports, “more than 50 percent of modern medicines and more than 90 percent of traditional medicines come from wild plants and animals.” These traditional medicines thereby represent an essential pharmacopoeia and body of medical knowledge that cannot be replaced easily by synthetic alternatives.
Wild animals and their habitats can serve as a barrier checking the spread of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) from animals to humans. Because the diseases and the animals have evolved together, the diseases have little to no effect on those animals. When transmitted to humans, however, those pathogens can result in EIDs. It has been estimated that 60 percent of recent EIDs have been zoonoses, and close to three-quarters of these originated in wildlife.
The clearing of undisturbed habitat to pave way for human activities such as agriculture has created blurred boundaries between wild and domestic animals, helping to facilitate the jump to humans. It has happened in the cases of Nipah and Hendra viruses, among others. The clearing of forests in Southeast Asia and Australia, respectively, led certain types of flying fox fruit bats to move closer to farm animals (pigs in the case of Nipah; horses in the case of Hendra). The farm animals ate virus-ridden bat saliva or urine, became ill. Thus, they transmitted the disease to humans who came into contact with them. Neither virus was new, but both were kept from humans until habitat destruction facilitated the jump.
Wild animals serve as a critical food source, rich in proteins and minerals for billions of people around the world. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 34 million people rely on fishing for a living; providing protein to over 3 billion people. Wild animals have also provided nutrition for humans, forming a significant proportion of our diet.
The domestication and farming of wildlife, the advancement of feed technology, and the invention of meat and milk production can be considered the three revolutions of the human diet. These developments improved the fat and protein proportions in the diet, and enhanced the development of the human body and brain.
The loss of any species from a food web disrupts the entire web. Preserving as many species in the web as possible ensures that every species will have another food resource to fall back on, if one food resource suffers a population decline. Having an alternative food source also allows a declining population the opportunity to rebound.
Wildlife conservation promotes agricultural biodiversity, which plays an important role in building a secure, robust, and thriving food system. When agricultural biodiversity is exploited and land is cleared for agriculture, resources and extensive habitat loss take place, as well as undocumented loss of species and massive soil erosion. Research shows this process has negative impacts on nutrition, health and dietary diversity of some groups of society.
Wild animals play a key role in enhancing the health and fertility of soil by improving its nutrients. Their dung and urine helps replenish the nutrient content of the soil by providing it with enriching minerals. Wildlife can also move nutrients around; for example, the hippo’s nighttime grazing in grasslands brings nutrients back to the river through their dung, increasing fish productivity.
Various other benefits of wildlife conservation include the following—
Conservation biologists argue that all species are the products of unique evolutionary trajectories and have the right to exist without human interference that would cause the extinction of those species. Once these species are gone, evolution might never replace a species.
The future of our planet desperately needs to be safeguarded, with climate change already wreaking havoc on our natural environment. In order to preserve the earth for future generations, we not only need to reduce the amount of harm that human activities have on the environment but support the natural world as much as we can.
Adv. Sunil Sharma is a writer for about 25 years and has authored more than 40 books on various subjects including Jurisprudence, Hindu Law and Environmental Laws.