Wildlife is a precious gift of God to this planet. The term ‘wildlife’ not only caters to wild animals but also takes into account all undomesticated lifeforms including birds, insects, plants, fungi and even microscopic organisms. For maintaining a healthy ecological balance on this earth, animals, plants and marine species are as important as humans. Each organism on this earth has a unique place in food chain that helps contribute to the ecosystem in its own special way. But, sadly today, many of the animals and birds are getting endangered. The natural habitats of animals and plants are being destroyed for land development and farming by humans. Poaching and hunting of animals for fur, jewellery, meat and leather are other great factors contributing to wildlife extinction. If soon, no stringent steps are taken to save wildlife, it would not be long when they will find a place only on the list of extinct species. And that would not be all! The extinction of wildlife species will certainly have a fatal impact on human race as well. So, for us as humans, it becomes a great responsibility to save the wildlife, our planet and most importantly, our own selves.
The eco-system is all about relationships between different organisms connected through food webs and food chains. Even if a single wildlife species gets extinct from the eco-system, it may disturb the whole food chain ultimately leading to disastrous results. Consider a simple example of a bee that is vital for growth of certain crops due to their pollen carrying roles. If bees get reduced in numbers, the growth of food crops would definitely lower owing to lack of pollination.
Similarly, if a specie gets increased in number, again it can have an adverse effect on the ecological balance. Consider another simple case of carnivores which is getting reduced every day due to human poaching and hunting. The reduction of these carnivores is leading to increase in the number of herbivores who are dependent on forest vegetation for their survival. It would not be long, when the number of herbivores in forests would soar to such a great extent that they would move to agricultural lands and villages for their food needs. Thus, saving wildlife plays a great role in ensuring a check on the ecological balance thereby, maintaining a healthy eco-system.
A huge number of plants and animal species are used to benefit humans in one way or the other. Many of the medicines such as aspirin, penicillin, quinine, morphine and vincristine have been derived from uncultivated plants. If we talk about the ancient medicinal system of Ayurveda, it has also been using extracts and juices from various plants and herbs to cure problems like blood pressure, diabetes and many other neurological problems since ages.
It’s not only the plants which are useful, many of the extracts from animal species are rich in nutrients and anti-oxidants. For instance, the oil from lever of Cod fish is rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 anti-oxidants that helps fight ageing, chemicals derived from shrimps and lobsters are used in treating fungal infections, venom of Cobra is used as a cure for leprosy and the list does not end here. Today, various species of animals are also being studied and researched upon to find cures to deadly diseases like cancers, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. If wildlife is not preserved today, there would soon be a time when human race would also be in great danger.
Human population largely depends on agricultural crops and plants for its food needs. Are you aware that wildlife plays a significant role in growth of these crops? If not, let’s understand the concept. The fruits and vegetables that we get from plants are a result of a process called pollination, a reproduction system in plants wherein the pollen grains from male flower is transferred to the female flower, resulting in production of seeds. Now, for the pollination to occur, birds, bees and insects, which are few of the tiniest species on this planet, play an important role. It is through these insects and birds that the pollens are transferred between flowers as they move from one flower to the other. The crop growth can be significantly affected if the pollen carrying birds and insects are reduced in numbers for whatsoever reason. You would be amazed to know that 90 percent of world’s apple crop is dependent on honey-bee pollination.
Besides pollination, many birds also play an important role in controlling pests by feeding on them.
Wildlife also plays a significant role in keeping the environment clean and healthy. Many micro-organisms, bacteria, slime moulds, fungi and earthworms feed on plant and animal wastes, decomposing them and releasing their chemicals back into the soil, thus, replenishing it with nutrients which in turn, are taken up by roots of plants enabling them to grow and develop. Well! This is not all. Do you know that the birds like eagles and vultures that are hated by people, also contribute to the nature in great ways? These scavengers help remove the carcasses and dead bodies of animals thereby, keeping the environment clean. Just imagine a life surrounded with layers of dead bodies lying near us un-decayed and unrotten. Thanks to these species who are helping us to live in a clean and healthy environment.
Scientists and researchers are aggressively working these days to preserve plants and animals through ‘Gene Banks’. These gene banks are a store house of cells and tissues of scores of wildlife species that play an important role in agriculture and farming. With these cells and tissues, not only the original plant varieties and animal breeds be re-generated in times of wildlife epidemics, climate changes or any such natural calamities resulting in reduction or extinction of these species but, also new varieties and breeds with improved genetic traits be generated thus, increasing a chromosomal diversity within species. Besides cells and tissues, gene banks also store plant seeds, sperms, eggs and embryos of numerous mammal species. Storing reproductive organs, such as ovaries and testes is also getting common with the advancement in science and technology.
If we talk about what benefits the cross-bred varieties of plant and animal species can have, there are various. The plant species with improved genetics tend to be high-yielding, more resistant to diseases & pests and also contribute to soil improvement. Cross breeding has also proved to be highly beneficial in dairy cattle with improved genetic species yielding more milk, showcasing better health and fertility.
Have you ever wondered where you will go for wildlife safaris, nature photography and bird watching if there are no forests? Where will you go fishing and angling if no fishes are left in lakes and rivers or in the worst case scenario, these water bodies disappear due to deforestation resulting in warmer climates? If you have never thought about these questions earlier, this is the right time to think about them as forests, wildlife, oceans, rivers and lakes are under major threat. With humans disturbing nature at such as fast pace, it would not be long when we will have only limited options for recreation activities in the lap of Mother Nature. If we do not start thinking about saving the wildlife now, there will soon be a time when will be not be taking our kids to zoos and biological parks to have them a glimpse at beautiful animals and birds but, would be showing them the pictures of these creatures only in books bearing the tagline of ‘Extinct Species’ in bold letters.
Wildlife also plays an important role in improving the economy of the country. Inviting tourists from all across the globe to witness endemic and rare species through their offerings for game safaris and birding tours; wildlife reserves and forests greatly contribute to inflow of foreign exchange thereby, increasing country’s GDP. It is not only wildlife safaris or bird watching that contributes to the country’s economy, many other activities such as trekking, fishing and river rafting require government permits and licences, the cost of which goes into government’s account. That is not all; the cost of tourist’s travel, local transportation, food, accommodation and sight-seeing – all indirectly contributes a significant amount to the nation’s economy. With influx of tourists, seasonal job opportunities for localites also increases significantly that again adds as a contributing factor to improved GDP. It is for this reason, many countries are today, promoting wildlife tourism even if they have to go to an extent of creating artificial habitats by importing flora and fauna from countries rich in these resources. Singapore is one such great example where the government has taken few major and unconventional steps of creating and maintaining the wildlife just to promote tourism in their country.
For many, wildlife is the source of income and provides them with their daily bread and butter. Consider the simple case of fishermen who greatly rely for their income on their daily catches or the farmers who heavily depend on a healthy crop yield for their livelihood. Similarly, many industries such as textile, paper, timber and rubber highly depend for their revenue on wildlife. Consider another common case of hotels and resorts sitting near wildlife parks. These will only earn if the park and its animals remain conserved and protected thereby, attracting tourists staying over in their resorts, which would in turn be contributing to their revenues. There are many other people employed in wildlife based ventures such as the ones supplying fishing gears, snorkelling and scuba-diving equipment, binoculars for bird-watching, porters, guides, drivers, mahouts (the list is endless), who are benefited by wildlife tourism. There is a great market across the world for exotic animal products such as leather bags, belts, fur jackets, ivory crafts and jewellery. People working in these trades also have a significant dependency on wildlife.
So, if one day, forests, animals, lakes, oceans and birds go missing from the earth, it will not only have an impact on the livelihoods of these people who are directly dependent on wildlife industry but, it will also have a cascading effect on every human being. Have you ever thought from where will we get fruits, vegetables, grains, wood, clothes, paper that are few of the basic necessities for a human being to survive on earth?
Don’t you feel good if there’s lots of greenery, colourful flowers and beautiful birds around you? Obviously, you do and everybody does. So, wildlife and nature obviously have an important role in imparting beautiful aesthetics to our planet. Forests, rivers, oceans, birds and animals; all contribute in beautifying the earth in a major way. If there are no forests, rivers and animals or birds, earth would turn into a barren land with no traces of life. Therefore, if you want to live in a place which is bustling with life, colours and happiness, save wildlife and save nature NOW!
Wildlife also has an important role to play in different cultures. Many animal and plant species actually represent the cultural backbone of the community. Certain animals are even associated with particular gods and goddesses, and are often symbolic of a deity’s power. For instance, cow is revered as mother in Hindus and therefore, holds a significant religious value. Similarly hawks and eagles are considered to be sacred in Native American culture. Because of such species’ contribution to cultural heritage, special cultural preservation acts under animal protection laws have been formulated in many countries. If these cultural associations with wildlife would not have been formed by our fore-fore ancestors, some of these species that greatly contribute to human well-being on earth, would have got extinct centuries back.
Besides the above few reasons, keeping pollution at bay, protecting soil from erosion, maintaining a healthy weather and climate; all these are some great reasons for saving the wildlife which we all have been taught in schools from day one.
Today, almost all the wildlife authorities across different countries are facing illicit acts of poaching and killing of animals by smugglers for animal skins, tusks and horns. What these people don’t realize is that today, they might be earning big fortunes by indulging in these activities but, 10 or 20 years later there would be no animals left which once used to be their source of incomes. What more? When there are no animals, there would be no forests and no forests means soil erosion, warm weather, drying up of lakes and rivers, no rains and hence, no crops and vegetation. This all is a cascading effect which every human needs to realize now. And, it’s not a one man’s job to save wildlife; it’s a joint effort that every single person needs to be part of. The wildlife authorities should come forward with stringent plans of minimising human interference in the core forest areas and effective wildlife tourism policies should be implemented so that illegal activities can be effectively controlled. Plus, for us as individuals we should start working towards taking small steps from our homes; minimize the use of electronic equipment such as air-conditioners that contribute towards global warming, pool vehicles while commuting so that there is less pollution and less harm to the ozone layer and save water. Even if we start contributing our bits to the environment and nature, it would come back to us for our good in future.