Oct 28, 2011

Extinction is Forever.

If you look down a list of endangered animals, you will continually read “Loss of habitat” and “Killed by poaching”. In our bid to dominate, populate and over develop the planet, mankind has been responsible for the irreversible extinction of so many of this worlds creatures.
It wasn’t until the 1800s that a few of our kind realised just how seriously destructive we were, and dedicated their lives to protecting and reversing the things that society had done. It couldn’t have been easy to do so back then, without the technology of today. Despite some heartbreaking losses, they were able to save some species from total extinction.
For example:

The White Rhino
Africa’s southern white rhinoceros was discovered in the early 1800s, and by 1892, a mere 75 years later, it was already thought to have gone extinct. The white rhino’s near extinction came at the hands of European settlers and hunters who enjoyed killing them because of their impressive size, as well as the fact that rhino horn fetched a good price in the Asian folk-medicine market.
Then, in 1895, about 20 southern white rhinos were discovered. People began protecting them, breeding them, and reintroducing them to areas from which they had been extirpated (ceased to exist in the area). Now, after more than 100 years of protection and management, their numbers have increased to nearly 20,000 in the wild. In fact, they are now the most numerous of the world’s five species of rhinos, and are no longer classified as Endangered.
However, white rhinos are once more in trouble, due to the fact that black-market prices for their horns have gotten so high (more than gold) that poachers will take almost any risk to kill one. Hundreds are illegally slaughtered every year. Almost one a day.
In addition, the population of the northern white rhino, is now down to around a half-dozen individuals, and almost extinct. The cause: illegal hunting for the Asia folk-medicine market.


The Siberian Tiger
At the turn of the twentieth century, there were two species of giant tiger—weighing up to 650 pounds (300 kilos)roaming some of the colder areas of Asia: the Amur tiger in the east, and its close cousin, the Caspian tiger, in the west. Both suffered at the hands of humans, who coveted their beautiful hides and also viewed them as potential killers of livestock. The Caspian cat, which had the misfortune of living closer to dense populations of humans, is now extinct. Having not been seen since the 1950s.
The Siberian tiger, whose native range extends along a narrow band of remote and icy Far Eastern Russia, China and Korea, was faring only a bit better until very recently. By the 1930s the Amur tiger’s population had declined to fewer than 40. Finally, in 1947, the Soviet (now Russian) government banned the killing of them. Tigers breed quickly when they have suitable food and habitat, and when they are not being killed faster than they can breed. The Russian tiger population was reported at between 450 and 500, which is a huge conservation success story.
Sadly, success can be short lived. One problem Siberian tigers face is that, because the current population is derived from just a few dozen individuals that survived their near extinction in the first half of the twentieth century, scientists fear the tigers lack sufficient genetic diversity. This means that all of today’s wild Amur tigers may be so genetically similar to one another that, among other problems, an illness capable of killing one of them would likely also be able to kill all of them, because of the fact that their immune systems have the same weaknesses.
Siberian tigers have also been losing habitat to logging and road building, as well as to changes brought about by global warming(yes, it IS real people). Drier, hotter conditions, along with frequent, forest fires, have been a major effect of climate change on tiger habitat.
The biggest threat to Amur tigers has been the recent, alarming increase in illegal hunting. Nearby China has the world’s largest market for tiger body-parts, which are used to make expensive folk medicines. Poachers in Russia will risk almost anything to kill one. So while China can be commended in it’s conservation of the Panda (and let’s face it, the Panda is always going to be good PA for China), the efforts to track down and stop the illegal poaching of tigers, has not been as fervent. 

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In so many instances today, conservationists have to resort to the desperate, last-chance method of captive breeding in order to keep some species from going extinct and leaving our world forever. This is why the regulation of Zoos is so important. (And I don’t mean those privately owned zoos like the one in recent news in Ohio. Were animals are kept purely for rich peoples enjoyment.) We need to support these people who are taking an active role in conserving and helping to reverse what we, as humans have done to our world.

 More recent captive breeding success stories include the California condor, black-footed ferret, golden lion tamarin, and red wolf. It takes time to figure out what is best for a species and to build a successful reintroduction program based on that knowledge. The goal of captive breeding programs is not to just increase population numbers, but to give those new individuals a better chance of survival, after they are re-introduced back into the wild.

While we go on with our daily lives, mother earth is facing a battle for survival. There are some of us out there who care.

Extinction is forever.

14 comments:

  1. Great post! I love your blog and love the fact that you understand how important animals are. Keep up the good work!

    Sincerely,

    An animals rights advocate.

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  2. I am ashamed to call myself human. People will do anything and completely disregard the result of their actions just to make a few bucks.

    Great post!

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  3. When we were on Safari in South Africa we stayed on a Private Game Reserve. They rescue abused animals, lions, elephants etc. Unfortunately when we left, poachers got onto the land and killed the rhino for his horn. So incredibly sad.

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  4. Great post, Sprite.

    Since the wealth of countries increased that consume horns, I fear that this is going to get worse.

    I completely agree that certified zoos need public support to continue their conservation efforts. So many species were re-introduced into the wild due to their breeding programs.

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  5. @Anthony thank you for your comments.. nice to meet a fellow animal lover :)
    @Dan Thanks Mate :)
    @Nubian Oh that would have been so sad :(
    @Ant thanks :) Hopefully posts like this will make more people aware.

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  6. beautifully done and soooo important!

    The Siberian Tiger has always been one of my faves!

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  7. Oh, my, how sad. Half a dozen? Wow.
    Nothing funny here.

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  8. We humans can be so short-sighted.

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  9. @Laoch thank you
    @Al no, not funny at all
    @Dbs exactly.

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