Animals…animals! They are one of my favorite things in this world. They brighten up the otherwise dull, concrete environment we all seem to have accustomed ourselves to of late. Buildings, tarmac roads, sky scrapers, cell phones, computers (yes I am aware of the fact that I am using one right now), iPad, iPod, things almost all of us can no longer “live without”. Man in his “intellectual supremacy” has as a result of searching for an easy life caused so much chaos and destruction to our ecosystem and as a result harmed our wildlife. In our pursuit of technological advancement we have put our environment at the bottom of the list. Unfortunately for Mother Nature, this means her gradual destruction….
We keep on hearing terms on the news such as global warming, poaching, and extinction of species among others but do these words actually have effect on us as individuals or do they just pass by like the wind into non existence as soon as we turn the telly off? Are we aware of what they mean or are they just another thing said by “scientists and environmental fanatics”? Well, if to you they are the latter then it’s really too bad. But hopefully at the end of this article you would have learned a thing or two about your surroundings (don’t log in to face book just yet, the article is just beginning).
The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines extinction as the dying or termination of a species which occurs when species are diminished because of evolutionary changes in their members or environmental forces. It then goes on to give examples of these forces. They include habitat fragmentation, global change, and overexploitation of species for human use. So although extinction may occur naturally (because of genetic inbreeding poor reproduction), in this day and age it is highly unlikely that man does not have a hand in it. There are several species of animals that are on the verge of extinction all over the world and that will be my focus today.
The first animal I’ll mention is the Great Polar bear. Unfortunately this animal is not as great as it used to be. We are slowly moving ourselves to a world where its white fur will only be a story on the lips of an elderly to its children and its children’s children (much like the Loch Ness Monster, though I am of the generation opinion that that was a myth). Its home, the Arctic is slowly melting away and so is the polar bear with it. This is thanks to global warming which will be tackled in depth in another article (or you could just be diligent and read about it on your own).
Next we have the “King of the Jungle” the Lion. Although if you are well read you will know that Lion’s do not live in jungles. This is now one of our own. Found in our continent, and in our own country, Kenya. He is a member of the “Big Five”. Did you know that in 1950 there were approximately 400 000 African Lions? Well at the moment they are around 16 500 to 47 000. The number is still decreasing though. The king of the jungle has now fallen prey to man and his habitat is slowly being overtaken resulting in his “suffocation” if I may use that term. He has been dethroned…
We then come to the largely beautiful African Elephant who once dominated the savannas of Africa in large herds…with scary but beautiful tusks, and it’s massive ears… well it seems that man stopped seeing the beauty of the whole and coveted the beauty of the large ,white tusks it had. Poaching seems to be the death of these animals .and now as a result they have drastically reduced in numbers…We seem to have forgotten their value is much more than just monetary…and an elephant never forgets….
Tigers are also fighting to keep their numbers and struggling to keep their habitats as well they don’t mix well with humans and unfortunately this Asian king of the jungle seems to be losing the battle. Then we have the father of all speed. Yes you got it right…It’s the cheetah! Such a beautiful and phenomenal animal indeed. It may be fast, but it seems to be losing the race with extinction due to the fact that it’s losing habitat and has a high infant mortality rate.
Mountain gorillas whose home is Central Africa are unfortunately susceptible to several threats. Not only is poaching a problem but they also are vulnerable to loss of habitat as well as diseases like Ebola. Yes you heard that right, I said Ebola. This disease, between 2002 and 2004 killed approximately 5000 gorillas.
We all know what the world’s largest animal is right? Well, if you don’t know, don’t worry I’ll tell you. (No it’s not the elephant if that was your guess). It’s the Blue Whale. While in the early 20th century they were almost hunted to extinction, at the moment what is a threat to them is pollution. Another very familiar word to us humans. This pollution comes in the form of noise from boats and sonar equipment, oil spillages, PCBs (which are basically polychlorinated biphenyls, i.e. industrial products and chemicals.) These things together with acidification and warming of the sea seem to give this large creature a tiny chance for survival.
These are just but a few species of the animal kingdom that are slowly being pushed towards doom and destruction. We should not think that the fact that these animals may soon be brought to non existence will not have any effect on our “technological lives”. Their destruction is our eventual doom as well since the balance they brought about in the eco system will be distorted by their absence, not to mention how dull life will be without them. The Question is, “what can we do about it?”…
Stuart Pimm, a professor at Duke University and researcher said this while speaking to The Press… “We are on the verge of the sixth extinction….whether we avoid it or not will depend on our actions…” What actions are these he was talking about? You may tell me “well Natalie what can I do, I am just a student, I have no job etc.” Well you can do anything you set your mind to. All you need with you is five simple steps.
- Discourage those who seek pleasure in hunting by telling them what effect it will bring…we all know people. So give the information you now have to them. After all it all starts with a simple step right?
- Do not buy products tested on animals. Yes the next time you are at the supermarket, actually take time and look at the label to the things you put in the trolley. If we all did this then we would create a dominoes effect which would bring companies that advocate for animal cruelty out of business…it starts with just one person….
- Do not buy animal products such as tiger’s claw, elephant tusks etc. need I say more on that?
- Try support organizations such as Kenya Wildlife Services and World Wildlife Fund as they strive to prevent extinction on a larger scale. You could even volunteer in your free time.
- We need to get the word out there so create awareness campaigns, make power point presentations, write articles or even a blog, for the computer geniuses out there ,make animations ( I’m not just suggesting this because I’m a fan of cartoons).let’s use this technology we have because it’s not all that bad.
We can do so much good for these helpless animals. Get started right now. You can even post something on facebook, twitter, Pinterest .(yes ,you now have permission to log in). Let us take action right now. After all, change starts with you and me. Let’s save our wildlife J
Natalie Jemima Hawala
Law Student and Self Proclaimed Environmentalist.
The University of Nairobi Parklands Campus, Parklands Greens Club.