Typically, I note articles that cross my desk which report negative stories about nature. Historically, they didn’t emerge that frequently. In general, nature was doing pretty well, despite some ongoing issues with over-hunting, predator control, urbanization, pesticides, and poaching. I read and keep these stories because sometimes lessons can be learned by studying other people’s follies. Here are two of those stories.
There is a significant risk to island-dwelling creatures as the earth warms. Giant Tortoises and lemurs are foremost in our minds when we think of exotic but threatened species. They will assuredly be impacted by climate change as they rely on what is called ecological niche habitats for survival.
For example, the tortoises are herbivores, feeding heavily on cacti and other unique plants. If the climate changes and the populations of cacti decline too rapidly, the tortoises either need to go somewhere else where food persists or change their diet. The reality is their diet is so specialized, it is virtually impossible for them to change quickly enough to survive. Combine this with relocation issues, since they can’t possibly move between islands to find new food sources. Essentially, if the food sources dry up, the tortoises will perish.
Lemurs live in fragmented forests in Madagascar, and virtually every species is under threat of going extinct to varying degrees! Again, many are food-specific herbivores. In their case, the habitats are so fragmented, due to a wasteful society, the animals cannot move between them and their chances of survival are slim.
Scientists postulate, many marine and mountain-dwelling species will go extinct, if our planet warms by 3 degrees Celsius, above pre-industrial revolution levels. To draw these conclusions, scientists, who published their work in the journal Biological Conservation, analyzed data linked to 270 biodiversity hotspots around the globe. The modelling suggests, a staggering 84% of endemic montane species and about half of endemic marine species will go extinct! Species are ‘endemic’ if they are only found in one place, such as an island, mountain range or single country.
These declines, in part, are due to the factors I mentioned above, but couple that with small populations on often isolated islands with limited habitat options and the outcome is dire.
Stories about predator control programs from every part of the world are rampant, and the outcome is devastating for both the prey and the predator. Yet, we continue to kill predators at alarming rates, often to satisfy hunter’s needs or unnecessarily protect livestock.
Gray wolves once roamed the North American continent from coast to coast to coast. In the 1950s, they were almost extirpated from the lower 48 US states, but due to intensive wildlife management programs, their numbers rose to about 7,500 by 2020.
Deeming the recovery so successful, all legislative safeguards were removed in 2019 by the USDFW. The control, protection and management of wolves was therefore passed from federal into state hands and the outcome is devastating! Michigan and Minnesota are planning wolf specific hunting campaigns for 2022, while Montana is permitting snaring of wolves to control them and Idaho has passed a law which will permit the cull of 90% of the state’s population by any means!
A story in Scientific American reports, in Wisconsin, hunters killed 218 wolves in three days, when a hunt was opened there; 21% of the state’s population of wolves. Add natural deaths, unreported kills, and poaching and the number is much higher and the outcome gloomy for the wolves. If culls continue, the wolf population in Wisconsin will likely drop to about 300 animals total, after the next hunt in 2022.
Stay tuned to hear about the disease known as Chronic Wasting Disease which will likely decimate the White-tailed Deer populations in areas where wolves have been removed. Numerous scientific studies have proven this fatal disease is held largely in check by wolves’ selectively killing infected deer.
Sadly, stories like these are now commonplace. In future columns I will share other revealing stories, not to scare or blame you but to remind us we affect all life around us!
Geoff Carpentier is a published author, expedition guide and environmental consultant. Visit Geoff on-line at LinkedIn and Facebook.