What is the goal of wildlife conservation?
I’ll answer your question like this.
The equivalent of one football pitch worth of forest is cut down every single second. Within a year, we literally loose Italy-sized chunks of forest all over the world.
This widespread loss of forests is caused by deforestation.
It’s deforestation that puts direct pressure on a number of already endangered animal species and is the leading cause of animal extinction. In fact, Earth has already lost about 60 percent of all vertebrate individuals since 1970.
That’s right, we are in the midst of the 6th mass extinction.
The goal of wildlife conservation, my friend, is to ensure that future generations, your children’s children, never have to ask us why we never did anything to protect our planet’s wildlife species and its natural resources.
Before we get started, I’d like to recommend the Photo Ark by Joel Sartore for all wildlife enthusiasts.
Jane Goodall herself has this to say about the book: “This is one of the most scientifically important—and artistically brilliant—books ever.”
(The book is available on Amazon. You can view it here.)
Goal of Wildlife Conservation
Avoiding the 5 Biggest Threats To Our Planet’s Wildlife.
The destruction of forests is one of the leading contributors to global climate change.
A staggering 20 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the clearing of tropical rainforests.
In 2017 alone, deforestation added about 7.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere. That’s almost 50 percent more than all the energy related CO2 – emissions from the entire United States.
Besides the obvious climatic repercussions, the removal of trees and other types of vegetation affects the available food, shelter, and breeding habitat of our planet’s wildlife.
Additionally, animals may encounter increased human-wildlife conflicts, such as being hit by vehicles when attempting to migrate between fragmented habitats.
Read: How To Save Trees
2. Climate Change
We wrote an in-depth article on how climate change affects animals, you can read it here.
The lowdown is that climate change can affect wildlife in many different ways.
Let’s take the polar bears, for example. The biggest threat to these magnificent creatures is the loss of sea ice due to premature warming temperatures.
Sea ice is effectively their hunting ground and without it they cannot eat. Eventually, they’ll starve to death. If you don’t believe the devastating affects climate change can have on the polar bear, I recommend that you watch this video (warning: graphic content).
3. Plastic Pollution
One garbage truck worth of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans every single second. By 2030, it will be two garbage trucks and by 2050, four.
Read: What is Land Pollution?
I am sure you’ve heard the statement that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish.
The problem with ocean plastic is that it kills more than 1 million marine animals every year (including mammals, fish, sharks, turtles, and birds).
Have a look at the graph below to see how plastic can harm marine wildlife.
|Study||Animal||Encounter type||Predominant debris type||Impact (response)|
|Allen et al. 2012||Grey seals||Entanglement||MF line, net, rope||Constriction|
|Beck & Barros, 1991||Manatees||Entanglement||MF line, bags, other debris||Death|
|Campagna et al. 2007||Elephant seals||Entanglement||MF line, fishing jigs||Dermal wound|
|Croxall et al. 1990||Fur seals||Entanglement||Packing band, fishing gear, other debris||Dermal wound|
|Dau et al. 2009||Seabirds, pinnipeds||Entanglement||Fishing gear||External wound|
|Fowler 1987||Fur seals||Entanglement||Trawl netting, packing bands||Death|
Read: How Are Plastic Bags Made?
Poaching has extremely devastating consequences for wildlife. Depending on the animal species, poaching could mean the difference between life and extinction.
The African elephant is one such species that faces this risk. Between 2014 and 2017 more than 100 000 elephants were killed for their ivory. (An extremely informative documentary called “The Ivory Game” dissects the ivory trade – I really recommend you give it a watch on Netflix.)
You can watch the trailer below.
Rhinos have also been hard hit by poaching, with more than a 1000 being killed each year for their “mystical” horn. This is all a fallacy of course, rhino horn is literally made out of the same stuff as our nails – keratin.
Read: Most Endangered Animals in Africa
Another type of poaching takes the form of the exotic pet trade. Captured animals are stuffed into small boxes, suitcases, or sacks. If they happen to survive transport, they often suffer in their unnatural, jail like enclosures.
What is the goal of wildlife conservation? – To allow wildlife species to live in harmony with nature.
Overfishing can have negative impacts on the entre ecosystem. It can literally change the size of the fish, as well as affect the reproduction rate.
When too many fish are removed from the ocean it creates an imbalance that can break down the entire food web. This can lead to the loss of other important marine life such as, endangered sea turtles and corals.
I really recommend you read the article 23 examples of keystone species, to better understand the consequences of a broken food web.
Nevertheless, the demand for fish continues to increase around the globe. The fish industry ranks as one of the most highly traded food commodities and fuels a $362 billion global industry.
Millions of people depend on the fish industry for their livelihoods. When fish disappear, so do coastal communities and jobs.
Wildlife Conservation Methods
Wildlife population monitoring
Monitoring of animal populations is an important goal of wildlife conservation.
It allows park managers to gain important information on the status of a threatened species. This also enables institutions to measure the effectiveness of their conservation efforts.
Monitoring can be local, regional or wide-range and can include one or many clear cut populations.
Three metrics commonly used during monitoring include population numbers, geographic distribution, and genetic diversity among many others.
You can categorize monitoring methods as either direct, or indirect.
Direct methods require conservationists to directly see or hear animals, whereas indirect methods rely on signs that indicate the animals are present, like a footprint for example.
In the United States, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 was passed to protect US species deemed at risk of extinction.
At the time, the United States government was concerned that the country was losing species culturally, scientifically, and educationally important.
That same year the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) was passed as an international agreement to ban the global trade of endangered wildlife.
In 1980, the World Conservation Strategy was created by the IUCN with help from the, World Wildlife Fund, UN Food and Agricultural Organization, UN Environmental Program, and UNESCO.
The purpose was to promote the conservation of living resources important to humans.
Finally, in 1992 the convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) was agreed upon at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (often called the Rio Earth Summit). This finalized the international accord to protect and preserve the Earth’s biological resources and diversity.
In the late 1980’s, the public became dissatisfied with the governments so called “efforts” towards wildlife and environmental conservation.
Instead, people began supporting private sector conservation efforts, which included several non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Seeing the rise in NGO support, the U.S. Congress decided to make amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act in 1979 and 1986, essentially earmarking U.S. Agency for International Development funds for biodiversity.
Since 1990, environmental NGOs have become more alert and focused on the political and economic impact of USAID funds that are dispersed for preserving the environment and its natural resources.
Today, many NGOs exist entirely to promote, or be involved with, wildlife conservation such as the Top 10 wildlife conservation organizations listed below.
10 Ways You Can Protect and Save Wildlife
1. Learn about endangered species
We wrote an in-depth article on the most endangered species on our planet, I really recommend you give it a read.
Once you’ve done that, teach your friends and family about the beautiful wildlife and plants that live near you.
The first step on the way to reach the goal of wildlife conservation is learning how precious and important they are. Our natural world provides us with many irreplaceable services, including fresh air, water and food – don’t take these things for granted.
Read: 18 Best Places to Travel in Africa
2. Visit a national wildlife refuge or wildlife park
Visiting a national wildlife park will enrich and purify your mind. These protected lands provide shelter for our planet’s last remaining wild animals.
Ecologists say that the best way to protect an endangered species is to protect their natural habitat.
Read: Top 17 National Parks in South Africa
You can get involved at your local nature reserve and volunteer some of your spare time to assisting the reserve with daily tasks.
Just type (wildlife volunteer work “your area”) in to Google to find some opportunities. Alternatively you can also check out Volunteer World.
3. Make your home wildlife friendly
Secure your garbage indoors or in shelters with secure locking lids.
Reduce your water usage by taking shorter showers. In South Africa, we put buckets in our showers to collect excess water, and then use it to water our lawns.
Disinfect your bird baths. This prevents the spread of disease between bird species. Put decals on your glass doors at home and at work to avoid bird collision.
4. Native plants provide food and shelter for indigenous animals.
Native plants attract insects like bees and butterflies which can help pollinate plants.
The spread of non-native plant species can have devastating effects on native populations. Invasive species always compete with native species for resources and habitat.
Some non-native plant species even prey on native species directly, forcing them towards extinction.
Make a point at researching your area’s native plant species and be sure to only plant these in your garden.
If you are based in the USA, you can use this website to find out what your areas native plant species are.
5. Avoid herbicides and pesticides
These chemicals may keep your garden looking nice, but they have many harmful chemicals that make animals suffer if ingested. Which is pretty much the opposite goal of wildlife conservation.
Many herbicides and pesticides take forever to degrade and build up in the soils and throughout the food chain.
For example, predators such as hawks, owls, or coyotes can be harmed if they eat animals who have been poisoned by pesticides.
Additionally, there are a few groups of animals such as amphibians who are particularly vulnerable to these toxic pollutants.
For alternatives to pesticides visit this website: https://www.beyondpesticides.org.
6. Slow down when driving
We share our neighborhoods with many wild animals. This means on top of searching for food and surviving animals must navigate a landscape full of human hazards.
Ironically. one of the biggest obstacles to wildlife living in developed areas are roads. Roads cut through and divide habitats, forcing wildlife to cross from one side to the other.
When you are rushing somewhere, be mindful of nature, keep an eye out and please just slow down.
A good friend of mine and I sometimes play a game called 2000 revs, where we make sure our cars revs never pass above 2000.
Ignore everyone else and give it a try ????
7. Recycle and buy sustainable
Buy recycled 1 ply toilet paper and sustainable products made from bamboo to protect forest species.
Reel’s tree free bamboo toilet paper is a great example. With each roll you buy, you give back.
Never buy furniture made of wood extracted from rainforests.
Recycle your cell phones and other electronic equipment. Read this article to learn how you can recycle your cell phone.
Minimize your use of palm oil. Forests where tigers live are cut down to cultivate palm oil.
There are so many palm oil alternatives! Read the ingredients section to make sure your product doesn’t contain any.
8. Avoid products made from endangered wildlife species
In fact, avoid all animal products. Why? Read our article on 21 benefits of being vegan!
Make sure to inform yourself about certain products found overseas. Everyone wants a souvenir when travelling overseas but some of them are driving animals to extinction (think the African elephant). Not worth it!
Don’t support the black market, which means avoiding any products that contain the fur from tigers, polar bears, sea otters, leopards etc. Also, avoid any products containing tortoise shell, ivory or coral.
9. Reduce your plastic consumption
All the plastic we use on a daily basis could potentially end up in our oceans, where it poses a great danger to sea life.
Turtles, dolphins, fish and other marine animals get entangled or swallow plastic pieces, which eventually kills them.
10. Be mindful of the underwater world
Along with plastic, harmful chemicals pose a great danger to the survival of the underwater world.
There’s one thing in particular, we all need to do: Always use reef-safe sunscreen.
Top 10 Wildlife Conservation Organizations
- The Nature Conservancy
- The World Wildlife Fund
- The Natural Resources Defense Council
- The Sierra Club
- The Wildlife Conservation Society
- Conservation International
- The National Audubon Society
- The Jane Goodall Institute
- The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The Bottom Line
The goal of wildlife conservation is to protect and preserve animals and their habitats. This is their world as much as it is ours.
Check out the infographic below, which shows the distribution of the world’s global biomass.
Humans make up just 0.01% of the earth’s total biomass. Let that sink in for a moment.
Thursday 16th of July 2020
Another well written and informative article. Very well done, keep on educating us on these very important topics.
Thursday 16th of July 2020
It would be interesting to get your views on the impact of the large elephant population over 100000 in the north of Botswana on the environment. It is a well known fact that elephants are large contributors of creating savannas as they clear trees. In fact during the hight of poaching during the 80's large savanna areas disappeared when the elephant populations dwindled which had a major impact on the grazing animals such as zebras, wildebeest, etc. Do you think transfrontier parks are the solution to allow wild animals to use their traditional migratory routes? Great article
Tuesday 28th of July 2020
Thanks for your informative comment Abel, we wrote a bit about the impact elephants have on their environment and the surrounding wildlife here. They are a keystone species and incredibly important.
In the near future we will write an article on the importance of transfrontier parks. There is no doubt, that with the rise in global temperatures, more and more animals will be forced to migrate to cooler climes. Without this right of passage, many animals (and human crops) will suffer.