May 15th sees the world celebrating Endangered Species Day and given the current COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps humanity might be included on a list?
If you were to look up the dictionary definition of ‘endangered’, you would find the following…” a species of animal or plant that is seriously at risk of extinction.”
Here in South Africa we have 229 mammal species and of those, 2 are critically endangered and 11 are endangered. 10% of all the plants on Earth are found in South Africa (20000 species.) And for a variety of reasons, 2576 are currently under threat of extinction! Many of our ecosystems are under threat from invasive species, like Water Hyacinth that is clogging up our dams and rivers. Invasive (alien) species also affect the survival rate of various animal populations that depend on indigenous plants as a food source.
Like the mammals under threat, the plant species are affected by the loss of habitat mainly due to building projects and similar incursions into their natural habitat. Like rhino horn and pangolin scales, many plants are utilized in traditional medicines and are harvested unethically or illegally.
Cartoon by Dov Fedler
What can we do? We can use Endangered Species Day to drive home the message that we are all responsible to inform and educate those who are responsible for the decimation of at-risk species. Each of us needs to accept responsibility for not buying or supporting products obtained by illegal methods.
We all need to be Ambassadors, not only the species that are under threat but those which might be in the not too distant future.
Currently, in South Africa, the Riverine Rabbit is seen as the most critically endangered species. There are between 500-1500 animals left, all of which are found in the Karroo. With the loss of their natural habitat to agricultural development leaving much of the area overgrazed and decimated. The major difference between this species and rabbits that breed frequently is the fact that females produce only a single offspring per year and hence the declining population.
Blue Crane. It is a sad indictment when the National Bird is under threat. They are under threat due to the unchecked growth of urbanization, poisoning, and power-line collisions.
Update: As a result of various conservation measures, the Blue Crane population is seen as stable and is now listed as Vulnerable.
African Elephant. Once again ivory has become a fashion item and hence the resurrection of the slaughter of these gentle giants.
Most people will be aware of the poaching of horns from both Black and White Rhino for their purported medicinal properties and a cure for a variety of ailments from cancer to erectile dysfunction and most complaints in between.
One of the most trafficked species in the world is the Pangolin for both its scales and its meat. And even though many visitors to game reserves wait many years for a sighting of this rare creature, the poachers seem to be able to find them with impunity.
Wild dog. Canine distemper is just one reason that this species is under threat.
Most people will be aware of the poaching of horns from both Black and White Rhino for their purported medicinal properties and a cure for a variety of ailments from cancer to erectile dysfunction and most complaints in between. One of the most trafficked species in the world is the Pangolin for both its scales and its meat. And even though many visitors to game reserves wait many years for a sighting of this rare creature, the poachers seem to be able to find them with impunity.
Vultures. They are either poisoned for a variety of reasons or their body parts are utilized in traditional medicine leading to a two-pronged attack on their survival.
Cheetah. This predator species is under threat due to loss of habitat which reduces their prey species.
Cartoon by Dov Fedler
Will an education campaign to make certain that those who are poaching our wildlife and plant species are made aware that there are consequences to their actions be successful? And not only by fines or imprisonment, but to try and get those involved to understand that the species they are poaching are finite and once they are extinct there will be no more to fill the demand that has been created by the faceless few who control the trafficking of these animals.
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