Need to conserve wildlife and their importance
Ecological balance Wildlife is an important link in the food chain in the terrestrial ecosystem. Each species in the chain helps in balancing the population, maintaining the food chain and natural cycles on earth. As such, they make the environment a self-sustaining system. Even man and wildlife are dependent on each other in such a way that any disturbance in one off them will give rise to an imbalance in the other. Therefore, ways and means should be found so that both can co-exist.
Economic value Wild species are economically important. Ecologically accepted trade in wildlife products such as skin, horns, fur, ivory, tusk etc. constitute an important element of commerce in many countries. Besides this, wildlife provides us with a number of plants and herbs which are utilized for medicinal purposes. However, care must be taken that wildlife are not utilized for selfish interests.
Recreational and aesthetic value Wildlife has made this planet aesthetically attractive. It is a pleasure to watch some wild animals roaming in their natural surroundings. Many countries like Kenya and Tanzania have exploited their wildlife resources to develop tourism.
Thus decline in wildlife will result in acute imbalance in ecological process and life based system.
Reasons for exploitation of wild animals
Commercial purposes Millions of animals are killed annually for skin, ivory, tusk, horns, and other parts. Some animals like foxes, bears, elephants, polar bear etc. are reared in fur farms where they live a life of misery and pain in small cages. The methods used to kill them after years of confinement are very cruel. The mass killings of birds and animals for commercial purposes has led to the extinction of many species such as passenger pigeons. The passenger pigeons were killed as there meat was good to eat, their feathers were used to make comfortable pillows. In a few decades, billions of birds perished and became extinct. Similarly, blue whale, the world's largest animal has been hunted to near extinction for its oil, meat and bones. Environmentalists fear that the number left is too small to escape extinction.
Illegal trade in animals The illegal world trade in animals and their products of rare and endangered species is estimated to be US $8 billion per year. Most of the poachers are poor and illiterate and depend on this trade for their livelihood. They kill animals indiscriminately. It has been known that on an average, for each animal they capture, they kill 50 other animals. Besides, most of the animals that they capture die in transit.
Entertainment A number of animals like elephants, lions, bears, horses, dogs, cats, monkeys, snakes etc. are trained to perform on the streets or in the circus. During their training, they are chained, whipped and tortured to perform and act as per the instructions of the master when he blows the whistle or shows the stick. When they fail to perform or do not co-ordinate with the master, they are subjected to cruel treatment.
Another form of cruelty is visible in the zoological parks.These animals are captured from the forests and kept in ill-fitted cages away form their natural habitat.
Experimentation The severest form of cruelty is inflicted on these animals when they are captured and kept in the laboratories for testing new medicines, cosmetics etc. All new medicines and cosmetics are first tested on the poor animals who are made to suffer the ill-effects and pain.
Domestic needs Some of the animals like bulls, horses, cows, buffaloes have to perform their duties for their master. Bulls, horses and camels have to carry people and load. Oxen and camels are utilized the plough the field and donkeys, mules and elephants act as beasts of burden. They are often made to perform tasks that are beyond their capacity. You must have seen in various dairy farms that the calf are separated from the cows so that they do not such the milk of their mothers. Repeated doses of injections are given to them in a very cruel way that is really painful. They are provided with dry hay instead of green grass like alpha-alpha.
Categories of wildlife
Endangered species: These are those species whose number has been reduced to a critical level. So, they may become extinct if the causative factors continues.
Vulnerable species: Population of these species are still abundant but these may become endangered if the same factors continues.
Rare species: These are those threatened species, which are very less in number and usually confined to a local area.
Conservation of wildlife
In-situ conservation The in-situ conservation, emphasizes protection of the ecosystem of the original habitats or natural environment. The in-situ approach includes protection of a group of typical ecosystem through a network of protected areas on land or sea. These are managed through state or other effective agencies. The biosphere reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries are included in the protected areas.
Objectives of national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and biosphere reserves
Protection of natural habitats through controlled and limited use of species.
Maintenance of a viable number of species in protected areas so that they do not become extinct and can flourish again.
Establishment and protection of areas through legislation for the conservation of wildlife.
Educating the public for wildlife protection.
Conducting research in the specific areas of wildlife.
A national park is an area which is strictly reserved for the betterment of the wildlife and where human activities such as forestry, poaching and hunting of wild animals are not permitted. Some of the national parks in India are:
Jim Corbett national park
Dudhva national park
Tadoba national park
A wildlife sanctuary is an protected area that is reserved for the conservation only of wildlife, animals and plant species. Human activities like harvesting of timber, collection of minor forest products are allowed. Some of the biosphere reserves in India are:
Periyar wildlife sanctuary
Ranipur wildlife sanctuary
Ex-situ conservation Sometimes, the population of species may decline or may become extinct due to genetic or environmental factors such as interbreeding, habitat loss and disease. In such a case, the in-situ conservation may not prove to be effective and a species may be protected form becoming extinct only through maintaining individuals in artificial conditions under human care. Such measures are included under ex-situ conservation . Generally, botanical gardens, zoos, aquariums, parks, agricultural research centers, forest research centers etc are the artificial habitats for ex-situ conservation of wildlife.
Besides, these measures, gene, pollen, seedling, tissue culture and DNA banks are also included in these strategies of ex-situ conservation. Seed, gene banks are the easiest way to store germplasm of wild and cultivated plants at low temperature and by cryo-preservation.
Biopiracy is defined as the privatization and unauthorized use of biological resources by entities outside a country which has pre-existing knowledge of rare biological resources. Agencies indulging in biopiracy illegally claim:
Exclusive commercial rights to plants, animals, organs and microbes and genes.
Commercialization of traditional communities' knowledge on biological resources.
patenting of biological resources.
A possible biopiracy scenario An agricultural biotechnology company learns of a plant with special traits from the local community of the biodiversity rich country. After discovering that the plants' traits have commercial applications in developed countries, the company acquires samples of it and retur to its own country.
The company isolates and purifies the gene encoding the desirable characteristics and applies for a biological patent. The company introduces patented and trademarked products in the market and profits. None of the money is returned to the indigenous people because the company has no legal obligations.
Difficulties in preventing biopiracy
Enforcing extra-jurisdictional bilateral contract is difficult.
There is a lack of awareness of a product's potential market value.
Only a few of the harvested products become new and profitable.
Collective knowledge is not easily protected within intellectual property.
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