Nearly a million species face extinction threats in the next few decades as human impacts on the environment increase. I’ll discuss how wildlife conservation efforts try to combat this in this essay, covering the many strategies employed at the moment.
We’ll examine distinguishing traits, as well as each approach’s significant advantages and disadvantages. To make it easier for you to discern between different conservation strategies and spot them when you come across them, I’ve included a table at the conclusion that summarizes these essential elements.
In the past, the term “wildlife” was primarily used to describe wild animals, but it is now frequently used to describe plants and other living things as well. The field of wildlife conservation includes a wide range of tactics designed to save wildlife from going extinct or experiencing population declines.
Types of Wildlife Conservation
The following are the types of wildlife conservation
- In situ Conservation
- Ex situ Conservation
1. In situ Conservation
The degradation of habitat is one of the main ways that human activities have a detrimental impact on wildlife populations. A good illustration of this is the clearing of forests for agricultural and logging purposes.
Recent record-breaking deforestation has threatened the habitats of millions of species of plants and animals as well as the indigenous populations that live there in places like the Amazon Rainforest.
There are different types of in-situ conservation and they are
- Habitat Conservation
- Habitat Restoration
- Invasive Species
- Endangered Species
- Keystone Species
- Preventing poaching and hunting
a. Habitat Conservation
In contrast to habitat restoration, habitat conservation is defending already-existing habitats from threats including pollution, climate change, and deforestation.
Large- or small-scale habitat conservation efforts often require identifying both at-risk habitats and those with high biodiversity levels. Since it needs the property to be maintained rather than developed for human use, habitat conservation frequently involves monitoring these places and collaborating with communities, legislators, and governments.
It’s important to remember that habitats don’t exist in isolation while considering why habitat conservation is such a crucial component of wildlife conservation. There are inputs and outputs in every system, and the health of one habitat or ecosystem can have a significant impact on others.
Even when a particular habitat isn’t a target for human activity, human activities can nevertheless disrupt the input and outflow of these systems. In addition to maintaining animal corridors, habitat protection can also be done physically by disrupting the spaces between ecosystems by erecting fences and roads.
b. Habitat Restoration
Rather than preserving already-existing regions, habitat restoration tries to rebuild potentially disturbed ecosystems. In order to make a place independent and completely effective once more, restoration includes human involvement.
To prevent unwanted effects, restoration activities are supported by data from science and knowledge of an ecosystem. It can be difficult to determine which species are most important and what will enable an ecosystem to regain a self-regulating condition, and ongoing monitoring and maintenance are typically necessary.
In reality, one of the challenges with habitat restoration is that we frequently lack a complete understanding of the intricacies of ecosystems. They are continually evolving, making it challenging to determine what kind of human intervention will be effective in aiding its recovery without complete, up-to-date data.
Restoration initiatives can also be exceedingly resource- and time-intensive, involving extensive stakeholder participation as well as long-term time and financial inputs.
c. Invasive Species
Invasive species removal is frequently a crucial component of habitat restoration efforts, but it can be contentious, especially when it concerns mammals.
A species that has been introduced “accidentally” into a region yet is damaging to the native species there is referred to as an invasive species.
Despite the fact that they are not native to the area, invading species frequently thrive there and outcompete local species for resources. This may result in habitat loss and significantly alter the natural ecosystem’s dynamics.
Since they can lead to extinction through competition and habitat modification, some claim that invasive species pose the greatest threat to biodiversity.
In a similar vein, not all non-native species are necessarily bad for the environment. The idea that non-native species are automatically invasive and must be eradicated has lost favor in the conservation community. In truth, non-native species may occasionally be consciously introduced as a kind of pest management.
d. Endangered Species
Another crucial technique of wildlife conservation that concentrates on species in danger of extinction is the listing and protection of endangered species.
With estimates indicating that as many as 227 species may have gone extinct since 1973 without the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), it is one of the most significant laws in the US for the conservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
Species are classified as “endangered” or “threatened” under the ESA. Species that face extinction for most or all of their range (where they are found during their lifetime) are referred to as endangered species.
Species that are considered to be threatened are those that are soon to be added to the list of “endangered” species. The fact that 99% of the species identified as either endangered or vulnerable have escaped extinction is one indication of the ESA’s success.
In order for a species to be designated as endangered or threatened under the ESA, petitions must be submitted. State-by-state implementation of the ESA may vary, but there must be scientific proof that the species and/or its habitat are seriously threatened by overuse, illness, or other relevant factors.
If a species is selected, it is protected by federal law against activities like poaching, harassment, and capture, and its vital habitat is also protected.
The Endangered Species Act has achieved several noteworthy triumphs, but it also has severe restrictions that may limit its usefulness. The Act has drawn criticism for its unclear language, which necessitates professional interpretation to decide whether or not specific species should be classified.
Although this ambiguity can occasionally leave too much room for interpretation, stakeholders with competing interests with those of endangered species have attempted to modify the Act to avoid its interference with activities like oil and gas development and exploitation.
Despite its flaws, the ESA has served as a guide for conservation efforts in many other nations, and it also works to protect endangered species abroad. Wildlife trading internationally is regulated to conserve endangered species under the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES).
e. Keystone Species
The keystone species, or species that play a crucial function in their ecosystem and are typically at the top of the food chain, are the subject of another conservation strategy.
These species would be the wolf or the bear in a woodland ecosystem, creatures whose well-being greatly impacts the dynamics and variety of the ecosystem as a whole. Significant biodiversity loss would result from the removal of the keystone species due to the cascading effects on other species.
As an illustration, elephants, a keystone species, are essential to the survival of African savanna ecosystems. By making trails through the undergrowth, elephants preserve the grassland’s natural appearance and actually help put out wildfires.
In order to keep those populations strong enough for eating by other creatures like lions, they also aid in preserving the health of the plants that other species like the zebra and gazelle feed on.
By focusing on certain species, keystone conservation hopes to improve the health of the rest of the ecosystem. By concentrating on a single species rather than attempting to adapt efforts towards each species in the ecosystem, resources can be saved.
Be careful not to mix up keystone species conservation with endangered species protection efforts. Although it is possible, keystone species do not necessarily have to be in danger of extinction. In fact, a keystone species may be picked because it plays a crucial part in preserving the habitat of another species that may be in danger of extinction.
The identification of the most crucial species in the ecosystem is crucial to the effectiveness of keystone conservation since it only concentrates on one species. Although this conserves resources, it could not be as effective as alternative conservation strategies, particularly in light of the intricate interactions among ecosystems that I previously highlighted.
f. Preventing poaching and hunting
Preventing the hunting and capturing of wildlife in the wild is another crucial aspect of protecting wildlife. Large, endangered species like elephants, tigers, and rhinos are frequently the targets of trophy hunting and poaching.
Poaching is thought to have killed 100,000 elephants between 2014 and 2017, and before conservation measures were put in place, poaching nearly wiped out the black rhinoceros.
For products like ivory or horns, as well as for the exotic animal trade, animals are poached, hunted, or captured. Unfortunately, the poachers themselves are frequently poor and motivated by the meager rewards they obtain for killing animals.
Because of this, legal conservation efforts strive to regulate both wildlife trafficking and the act of poaching alone, and many NGOs work to develop alternatives for poachers to make money.
Along with the need to address socioeconomic causes, poaching can be challenging to regulate because of the fact that international legislation varies.
For instance, it’s thought that the Vietnamese government hasn’t done enough to stop the trade in illegal rhino horn, which has repercussions in regions like Africa where there are a lot of rhino poachers.
Access to areas where poaching takes place can also be difficult, and it takes money to hire and educate rangers to enact anti-poaching regulations.
2. Ex-Situ Conversation
All of the animal conservation methods mentioned up to this point are referred to as “in-situ” conservation, which simply means that the preservation of ecosystems takes place in their native habitats.
Ex-situ conservation, on the other hand, describes conservation initiatives that take place outside of that ecosystem, such as in botanic gardens, zoos, safaris, or wildlife rehabilitation facilities.
Ex-situ conservation can take numerous forms for plants and animals, and it can also involve varied levels of human intervention. Organisms are not, however, subject to the same stresses of natural selection as they would be in the wild in any ex-situ habitat.
Ex-situ conservation for plant wildlife may involve methods like employing seed banks and cryopreservation (keeping plant material for extended periods under extremely cold circumstances).
The method of preservation chosen will depend on how resilient the seeds are, but it will guarantee that this genetic variety won’t completely disappear if wild populations face serious threats. Another way to preserve plant life is in botanic gardens, where the plants are kept alive and growing rather than being preserved as seeds or pollen.
Ex-situ conservation methods for animals require both the preservation of genetic material and the creatures themselves, just like ex-situ conservation methods for plants. Eggs, sperm, and embryonic genetic material are stored in gene banks.
The care of animals at zoos is a sort of ex-situ conservation, much like that at botanic gardens, while zoos as organizations are frequently active in both in-situ and ex-situ conservation programs. Zoos also place a strong emphasis on conservation from an educational perspective, using animals to promote conservation initiatives in the wild.
Ex-situ conservation is effective at protecting wildlife and averting extinction, but it ignores habitat needs or the capacity of species and ecosystems for self-sufficiency. It can also be quite resource-intensive, necessitating the right technologies for the preservation or maintenance of live plants and animals.
We have gained a great deal of knowledge about conservation activities and how they operate. It’s easy to see the significance of animal conservation now that the objectives are still fresh in our thoughts.
Given how many species are endangered, we still have a long way to go. We must actively work to protect animals and the environment if we want our planet to last as long as it can.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.