Are We Killing Them? Human-driven Changes in Animal Population
Animals – our younger brothers and sisters as well as closest neighbors on the branches on the tree of life. For us, humans, it seems like we have managed to set our lives straight with all the other members of our planetary fauna. Lots of us won’t even recognize ourselves as a part of the animal kingdom (biological classification), but that is a topic for a whole different article.
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The point is that we put ourselves above and beyond the living creatures that inhabit our planet. That seems to be in our nature, a “gift” only humans are praised with. While no other living organism seems to carry such a devastating threat to other creatures, we, humans, have managed to eliminate whole populations of species.
To provide a historical example, let’s look at the numbers – what changes did the populations of some of the most common animals undergo throughout the last 50 years?
The Ugly Truth
Looking back at the history of mankind, we can observe an incontestable pattern – wherever we appeared, populations of local animals had undergone a massive decline. History has known numerous cases of the extinction of species, driven by “humane” reasons.
But nothing we can rewind from history can compare to the situation we are currently in. The climax of human-driven animal population crisis is happening right now, at the inception of the 21st century. According to the most recent WWF research, the numbers are devastating. In order to visualize the situation, they invented a few indicators, including the Living Planet Index, which is the most graphic. It showed a 58% decline in the population of the vertebrate species in the last 40 years. Which literally means that those animal populations are currently less than half the size they were in the 1970s.
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The ones our kids might never know of
So which “vertebrate” species are we talking about? Some of you might think that we are talking about some rare species of animals we’ve never heard of. Well, that is far from the truth. Amongst the most affected are one of the most common animals we have seen and heard of. Here is how drastically the numbers have changed for some of the animals in the last 50 years:
- The lion population has declined by almost 75%, from 110,000 to 30,000
- The leopard population went from 80,600 to 23,664
- Tigers are in huge danger, moving from around 45,000 to only 3,900 as this writing
- The chimpanzee population has declined to less than half of their population of 50 years ago – from 453,000 to 172,700
- The orangutan population dropped over 80% from 230,000 to 41,000
- The same disaster has happened to Gorillas – a huge drop from 490,000 to 100,000
The Most Endangered
For other animal species, the current situation is even more threatening. Elephants are under incredible threat. The population of these gentle giants has dropped by 62% just over last decade. It is estimated that there were around 3 to 5 million African elephants around in the early 20th century. Current figures show that there are just 400,000 of them left at the moment.
Rhinos are one of the most tragic cases animal population decline. In 2011, 2 of the subspecies went extinct and Northern white rhinos have been reduced to just 3 poor individuals, which are in captivity. The total number of the rhino population is around 30,000, which is a tiny fraction of the number that existed half a century ago.
Threats and Reasons
In vivid contrast to the animal population, the human population is growing rapidly, and at an increasing rate. Moving from 3.3 Billion to 7.6 billion in the last 50 years, some regions of our planet are becoming overpopulated with a bizarre population density index.
But that is not the only reason for the animal population crisis. The WWF designates habitat loss and degradation, as well as exploitation through hunting and fishing amongst primary threats. Climate change and pollution have truly earned a unenviable second place in the contest of dangerous threats.
While the majority of threats carry global character, some local threats are as devastating as they are unacceptably disgusting. Trophy hunting and poaching is doing massive damage to the most endangered species, like rhinos and elephants. People devastate these animal subpopulations in order to acquire their horns and sell them on the black market. The rates at which this is taking place is frightening – in some areas in Africa, more elephants are being killed than are being born.
How Do We Fix This
The majority of the threats highlighted earlier are, to say the least, unnecessary. Some of them are simply stupid, like trophy hunting. Some are the result of our never-ending race to acquire natural resources, which changes the entire environment that we live in. But, they all come from fundamental origins.
These elements are engraved in the human mind. There is always a cause standing behind the effect. In this case, it’s a misconception of the place that we are taking inside our own ecosystem. It’s been a long time since we’ve taken the baton of evolution and became the kings of this world. Since that time, we developed immensely in all directions. We’ve developed our technology, our language, our medicine, our knowledge and our culture. But have we developed our attitude?
“He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
― Immanuel Kant
Knowledge has always meant power. And, it’s your responsibility to spread it. What needs to be changed is mental, because the situation is global. There is only one thing to realize and commit to memory – that there is a balance that should be kept. We, the people, represent the majority of our ecosystem, so it’s our, and only our, responsibility to keep it viable and self-sustaining.
Thriving For Change
Now, the obvious question you might have is – so what? What exactly do we do about it? And my answer is – unite. Consolidate around ideas, people and organizations that are fighting the animal population crisis. Talk about it with your friends, teach it to your kids, read books and spread ideas about them. Don’t ever purchase products and goods that were made as the result of terrible mistreatment of animals or was illegitimately tested on them. Check out what local or global organizations are up to – what can you help them with? Commit your time and resources to them.
Finally, have mercy and compassion toward our gentle neighbors. Show the attitude of a wise and educated human. It all starts with you, not with someone else. So, don’t leave them all alone in a cold world we have made for them.
Announcement from HandMadeWritings Team
We have a special announcement for you, our beloved reader and customer. HandMadeWritings is launching a campaign to support animals. We will donate all the funds that are accepted from orders submitted with the special discount tag “AN1ML” to the two organizations that are making the change – Centre for Animals & Social Justice and WWF. As a token of our gratitude, we will extend a 15% discount on your order when you do so.
Join us on the way to making this world a better place! Animals deserve it!