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Wildlife extinction woes

By: Sudha Subramanian
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Wildlife is such an important aspect of our lives that we never really understand or realise it. “If all the insects on the face of the earth disappear then, humans would disappear” said Jonas Salk, the man who discovered polio vaccine. According to him, if all humans disappear, then, in 50 years time all the species will thrive!!! This thought though debatable leads us to the way, we fear to go – that we as humans are the sole reason for wildlife extinction. It would be mans biggest folly to underestimate the power of other living things and go ahead with his unending ego of being able to survive against all odds be it weather or even global warming.

If we look around, then, many animals and birds have disappeared from active habitat. Even as I was a kid, I remember waking up to the chirping of sparrows. The tree sparrow today, in urban India, can hardly be spotted anywhere because the trees where it has to nest has disappeared and the house sparrow which needs small holes or can build nests under thatched roofs can obviously not find any place. Instead, we have many pigeons because what they need is available in plenty (meaning, its natural habitat is just rocks and cliffs and they seem to adapt to high rise buildings with a lot of ease!).

Look at the Dodo effect in Mauritius. Some may attribute its extinction to its inability to survive under many circumstances. After all, the bird was unintelligent and it is today well known for that! But, we as humans didnt do much either to let it prosper.

Now, the case of our very own Indian Elephant. The Indian male elephant was very much known for its long tusks. Today the length of the tusks has reduced considerably. Thanks to man. Experts say that, the elephants now are in the process of evolution when eventually a few thousand years from now, people will see the tusks on elephants only in pictures. Of course, we have better ways of documentation and the people may not have to look at cave pictures thousand years from now!

The African variety though still wields tusks and both the male and the female have tusks thus making them more vulnerable to poachers!

When we look around, we havent spared any.

Take the big cats – at least two of big cats are prominent in the endangered list.

Now the reptiles - many are endangered, including the fearsome Komodo Dragon.

Let us check the ocean animals – Hammer head sharks near Mexico and of course, some species of sharks and whales are all on the list. There is absolutely no need to narrate mans undying gastronomical desires.

And the birds? - let us not even go there. Kiwis, Albatrosses, black spoon bill, and the list goes on.

Among the Animal Kingdom, the lot much safer compared to the other species are the insects. We dont even know many of them. But, before we rejoice about their safety, there is concern because, they may not be in the endangered list, they are in watch list , meaning, they have to be under watchful eyes and linger in the area before coming to the endangered list area! The paramount concern here is that strict measures have to be taken to discourage any cool dude to find a money making racket here by finding something extra ordinary about insects and do something about them and drive them to extinction.

This is the list that has been around for a while. What we dont know is that if any of them are already in the brink of extinction or already extinct!

Having listed all the concern, it is important to take responsibility. There are no prizes for guessing the reasons for these many species to be endangered. The only thing that can be done is to help save some species from the brink of extinction. It is very saddening to even think that our grand children could probably look at the tiger or an elephant in pictures or in the museum. The royal Bengal tigers number has dwindled to a mere 1,411. The number was released on Feb 12th and it at least 2 years old. No one knows for sure if they have decreased some more. The Cheetahs have their own set of problems. Other than their inability to breed well, their skin attracts a lot of people and many yearn to don them around themselves!!!

It is of course true that the tiger/ komodo dragon, does not help us in any way in our daily life. We can still drive in our fancy luxury cars and eat a hearty meal and live our lives and not bother about them being on the face of this earth. Hmm.... but it is equally interesting from the tigers point of view. He doesnt want us around him either. So, what if he makes up his mind? That is something to ponder over.

What could be so fascinating to kill animals for pleasure or for their skins or tusks is incomprehensible. Is it just mans undying quest to show his prowess? But is it really his power? How many of us have not seen people mimic the lion in a cage in a Zoo? Perhaps the lion finds the man outside prompting it roar very amusing. It probably is thinking – Try doing that after you open this door! Time and again, we seem to kill, tease these animals just to satisfy our senses. We as a species perhaps know deep in our hearts that we cannot live without animals. Yet, we seem to witness and also help in speeding their extinction without batting an eyelid!

If on this day, we resolve to do something to save these animals, we need to first take responsibility. For this, we as humans should first be convinced that animals are important to earth. Without that, no matter what measures are taken, not much can be achieved. The next step is to face the situation and act and act quickly and wisely. Stern action should be taken against poachers and people who let poaching happen. There has to be an aggressive drive to end the reign of poachers and the punishment rendered to such people has to be severe.

Then, the second main reason for any animal life to be endangered is loss of habitat. Yes, it is important for humans to live but at what cost? Resettlement is a big issue. By creating a fund, and resettle people living near forests will help both – the people and also the animals. We also need to create job opportunities. Many times, these very people who live near the forests can help the people in better conservation activities. By educating these people, we can stop some very basic things that will harm animals and in turn give them job opportunities in the forest department.

Above all, the sole thing to battle any grave issue that is gripping us, is every individual responsibility. We as individuals are most importantly answerable to our own conscience. So, why not, live and let our animals friends live.

Sudha Subramanian

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