Wildlife Conservation • In the United States alone, there are 986 endangered species (388 animals, 598 plants). Also listed are 276 species which are threatened (129 animals, 147 plants). • In the world, 1072 animal species are considered endangered or threatened; 748 plant species are listed as well.
Wildlife Conservation • Causes of Endangerment • Efforts and Governmental Acts to Protect Species • Wildlife Refuges • American Bald Eagle Conservation • Whaling
Habitat Destruction • Our planet is continually changing, causing habitats to be altered and modified. Natural changes tend to occur at a gradual pace, usually causing only a slight impact on individual species. However, when changes occur at a fast pace, there is little or no time for individual species to react and adjust to new circumstances. This can create disastrous results, and for this reason, rapid habitat loss is the primary cause of species endangerment. The strongest forces in rapid habitat loss are human beings.
Habitat Destruction (cont’d.) • For example, although tropical forests may look as though they are lush, they are actually highly susceptible to destruction. This is because the soils in which they grow are lacking in nutrients. It may take Centuries to re-grow a forest that was cut down by humans or destroyed by fire, and many of the world's severely threatened animals and plants live in these forests. If the current rate of forest loss continues, huge quantities of plant and animal species will disappear.
Introduction of Exotic Species • Native species are those plants and animals that are part of a specific geographic area, and have ordinarily been a part of that particular biological landscape for a lengthy period of time. • These species are introduced into new environments by way of human activities, either intentionally or accidentally. These interlopers are viewed by the native species as foreign elements. They may cause no obvious problems and may eventual be considered as natural as any native species in the habitat. However, exotic species may also seriously disrupt delicate ecological balances and may produce a plethora of unintended yet harmful consequences. • Introduced insects, rats, pigs, cats, and other foreign species have actually caused the endangerment and extinction of hundreds of species during the past five centuries. Exotic species are certainly a factor leading to endangerment.
Overexploitation • Unrestricted whaling during the 20th century is an example of overexploitation, and the whaling industry brought many species of whales to extremely low population sizes. When several whale species were nearly extinct, a number of nations (including the United States) agreed to abide by an international moratorium on whaling. Due to this moratorium, some whale species, such as the grey whale, have made remarkable comebacks, while others remain threatened or endangered. • Animals are also deliberately hunted for their furs and the special properties some of their body parts have in the making of medicines. While hunting endangered species is illegal, it continues in many parts of the world because of the large sums of money these animals can bring.There are demands for items such as rhino horns and tiger bones in several areas of Asia. It is here that there exists a strong market for traditional medicines made from these animal parts.
More Factors • Disease, pollution, and limited distribution are more factors that threaten various plant and animal species. If a species does not have the natural genetic protection against particular pathogens, an introduced disease can have severe effects on that specie. For example, rabies and canine distemper viruses are presently destroying carnivore populations in East Africa. Domestic animals often transmit the diseases that affect wild populations, demonstrating again how human activities lie at the root of most causes of endangerment. Pollution has seriously affected multiple terrestrial and aquatic species, and limited distributions are frequently a consequence of other threats; populations confined to few small areas due to of habitat loss, for example, may be disastrously affected by random factors.
The Endangered Species Act • Passed in 1973 • Mission to conserve “the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend” • It is illegal to “take” an endangered species • Administered by the Department of the Interior’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Department of Commerce’s National Marine Fisheries Service • Individual states are encouraged to develop their own conservation programs for local endangered species
Current ESA Statistics • 517 animals are currently endangered • 29 animals are proposed for listing • 116 candidate species • 541 Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) have been approved
NOAA Restoration Center • Dedicated to the restoration and protection of costal habitats • Plans and implements both large and small-scale projects • Community-based Restoration Program (CRP) • Damage Assessment and Restoration Program (DARP) More information can be found at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/habitat/restoration/index.html
Greenpeace • Immediately end industrial logging and road-building in the Earth's remaining ancient forests • Immediately end clear-cutting in all forests • U.S. businesses should eliminate their use of all products that destroy or degrade ancient forests • Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) http://www.greenpeaceusa.org/forests/
Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) • Goal of conserving the diversity of plant and animal species in Southern Africa • “Working Groups” initiate and fund projects to further the maintenance of biodiversity
Wildlife Refuges • “A haven or sanctuary for animals; a wildlife refuge is an area of land or of land and water set aside and maintained, usually by government or private organization, for the preservation and protection of one or more species of wildlife.”
Types of Refuges • The U.S. Wildlife Refuge System in 1997 made up more than 520 different areas in all the states, covering over 93 million acres. • The system is governed by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Dept. of the Interior. • The work of the service includes: • Biological research • The administration and enforcement of relevant federal legislation • Numerous related projects
Types of Refuges (cont’d.) • Refuges have been established for big game, small resident game, waterfowl, and colonial non-game birds. • The most numerous are the waterfowl refuges. • Waterfowl refuges are refuges that offer to various birds breeding areas, wintering areas, and resting and feeding areas along major flyways during migration.
Types of Refuges (cont’d.) • While the main purpose of the refuge system is to ensure survival of wildlife by providing suitable cover, food, and protection from humans, many refuges have permitted hunting and fishing in season and other recreational activities within its grounds. • Some refuges, also, have been designated wilderness areas.
Wilderness Areas • A wilderness area is “land retaining its primeval character with the imprint of humans minimal or unnoticeable.” • In the United States, the Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System - 9 million acres of land in 54 different areas that provided for the designation of new wilderness areas. • By 1992, the total had risen to 95 million acres in 708 areas of land. • Alaska, with 57.6 million acres, is by far the leading repository of wilderness in the United States.
Wilderness Areas (cont’d.) • According to environmentalists, Wilderness lands are to be preserved in their natural condition, wild and undeveloped. • The idea of wilderness has deep roots in American thought and writings: • William Penn • Henry David Thoreau
The establishment of wildlife refuges in the United States • Refuges have been established by private individuals and societies and by all levels of government. • The first state refuge was established by California in 1870; the first federal refuge was Pelican Island in Florida (1903). • Other countries throughout the world also maintain parks, refuges, and game preserves. • Kruger National Park (est. 1898) in South Africa
Recent Issues with Refuges • Maintenance and repair of facilities are enormous. • Between 1985 – 1995, Congress added 80 refuges to the system, but the refuges’ annual operating budget never kept pace with this growth. • Now, even as refuges are asked to handle more and more public access, some of these vast holdings are perceived as burdens on taxpayers. • Some members of Congress have suggested selling off portions of the refuge system.
Recent Issues with Refuges (cont’d.) • Others have favored opening them up for more public use. • Opponents of these measures arguing that these bills refuges would be badly weaken refuges throughout the country.
HISTORY OF THE BALD EAGLE • 1782 Congress adopted the bald eagle as national symbol; at the time there were estimated to be between 25,000-75,000 birds • Females can weigh up to 14lbs and have an 8 foot wing span, eagles can live up to 30 years in the wild, mate for life and will lay two to three eggs per year • Eagles have been known to build nests as big as 10 feet in diameter and weighing up to 1 ton, and will often nest within 100 miles of where they were hatched
DESTRUCTION OF THE BALD EAGLE POPULATION • European settlers saw the eagle as a threat to livestock telling tales of the birds carrying away full-grown sheep • -By the 1960s there were fewer than 450 bald eagle nesting pairs in the United States—due to hunting, habitat destruction, and environmental degradation • -By 1940 experts feared the eagle would be hunted to extinction—leading Congress to enact the Bald Eagle Protection Act
PESTICIDES: THE DOWNFALL OF THE B.E.P.A -After WWII came the birth of the chemical era in agriculture and the war to fight invading insects by using harmful pesticides on crops -DDT, most widely used pesticide, eventually concentrated in the tissue of fish population -Contaminated fish were eaten by the bald eagle and converted into DDE, another harmful chemical that prevented the production of calcium in female eagles—this led to the production of eggs with extremely soft shells -Not until 1972 did the federal government ban the use of DDT when scientists found a link between declining eagle populations and the use of this chemical
BALD EAGLE RECOVERY -The Endangered Species Act of 1973 listed the American bald eagle as endangered in most of the contiguous states -Agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service began to initiate captive breeding programs, producing birds for reintroduction into the wild -By 1988, the bald eagle had recovered and reproduced enough in the wild to discontinue the federal reintroduction program
WHERE IS THE EAGLE TODAY? -In 1995 the bald eagle population exceeded 4,500 breeding pairs, which allowed them to be downgraded from endangered to threatened -There has been a proposal to remove the bald eagle from the endangered species list, but many fear that without the ESA’s protection the species will deteriorate once again -According to many officials, “while the bald eagle no longer faces imminent extinction, its full recovery is still impeded by the presence of contaminants such as PCBs, dioxins, mercury and other chemicals. . . .and by the loss of habitat from a variety of human activities, including urban expansion and development along shorelines.”
The History of Whaling • Started by the Japanese in the first few centuries A.D. • Norwegians began whaling between 800 and 1000 A.D. • Dutch, British, and the Americans started in the 17th century. • These early whalers hunted the Northern Right Whale.
Purpose for Early Whaling • Europeans used the whales for their oil and baleen • The Japanese ate the meat and found uses for many other parts of the whale • Early whaling was excessive
Effects of Early Whaling of the Northern Right Whale • Now, only about 300 Right Whales survive in the North Atlantic • Only 250 in the North Pacific • In February of 2002, the National Marine Fisheries Service refused to designate Critical Habitat for this species. • Said they needed to collect more data
The Bowhead Whale • Hunted to extinction in the Atlantic Ocean • An estimated 7500 still exist in the North Pacific • Still hunted at a rate of 67 per year by the Alaskan Eskimos • In 2002, The International Whaling Commission rejected the U.S. request to continue this hunt.
The Sperm Whale • Made famous by the novel Moby Dick • U.S. whalers also hunted the sperm whale, first in the Atlantic out of New England, and then in the Pacific off of Hawaii.
The Sperm Whale Population • In 2002, population estimates for the sperm whale show only 360,000 left in the world
California Grey Whale • Hunted in the lagoons of Baja California • Hunted almost to extinction in the late 1800’s, then recovered. • Hunted almost to extinction again in the 1930’s and 40’s, then recovered again. • Today, the species is up to pre-exploitation levels (about 26000).
International Whaling Commission • Regulates Whaling, established in 1946 • Gave its member nations quotas on the whales they wanted to hunt • But the quotas were much too high • Whale population declined rapidly • 1982 – IWC adopted resolution calling for an indefinite moratorium on commercial whaling, which became effective in 1986, ending commercial whaling.
Recovery of Some Populations Although most species are recovering, the Northern Atlantic Right Whale is in trouble. In 1999, only two females with calves were spotted off the coast of Georgia and Florida.
Compliance to the moratorium is voluntary – a member can file a protest to the moratorium and then need not to abide by it. Norway is still hunting Minke Whales in the North Atlantic as a result of this. Aboriginal whale hunting allows the American Eskimos to still hunt the Bowhead whale and the Grey whale. Whaling for “scientific research” is still allowed This is the loophole that the Japanese use to whale. Loopholes in the IWC
Japanese Whaling • Although the Japanese say their whaling is carried out for “research”, the meat is sold to wholesalers and used for school lunches. • Research has shown that the Japanese are whaling illegally, and selling the meat from the whales that are not allowed to be hunted.
The Antarctic Sanctuary • In 1994, the IWC set aside a huge area around Antarctica as the Southern Ocean Sanctuary • The purpose is to protect the major feeding areas of about 90% of the world’s whales • The proposal passed by a vote of 23-1, with the Japanese being the only opposition. • The Japanese continue to hunt 400 Minke whales a year in the sanctuary for “research” purposes. • This is allowed under IWC rules, because a sanctuary can remain open to whaling by any nation that objects to the proposal.
How can I help? • The easiest and most efficient way to help is to donate to the various organizations that are trustworthy and have a well established reputation. • Wildlife Conservation Network • National Wildlife Federation
Conclusion • Increased understanding about the world’s current wildlife situation and an increased emphasis on education will give future generations an opportunity to experience nature to its fullest extent.