Management Magazine

Rising temperatures threaten wildlife

The WWF study shows that extreme swings in temperatures on the surface will threaten up to half of the population of animal species on earth


The World-Wide Fund for nature (WWF) has finalised and concluded a study which predicts drastic climate-change related consequences on biodiversity, especially for animal species around the world due to the rise in temperatures. The study also predicts that the Paris Accord which pledges to limit global warming levels will not help in countering the predicted shrinkage in the size of animal biodiversity.

According to the study, extreme swings in temperatures on the surface of the earth in form of global warming and global cooling will threaten up to half of the population of animal species on earth. In the report, giant panda or African elephant is one of the many animals identified as the most threatened by the projected earth-bound global swings in heat waves.

This study – which was carried out as a research collaboration between the WWF, University of East Anglia and the James Cook University – used a target population of thirty-five places that were identified as hot-spots or very important sanctuaries or homes to bio-diversities in animal species. The identified areas included Kenya, Congo, Cameroon, Tanzania, the Amazon basin and Madagascar. In its conclusions, the study projected that about a half of the biodiversity in the animal species is under threat of extinction.

Birds could survive

Jeff Price, WWF spokesperson pointed out that animals such as the African elephant are most likely to vanish from their natural habitats as well as some plants, amphibians and reptiles. He noted that birds will not be hit hard by climate change as they have a good natural capacity to adjust to temperature changes through a behaviour known as biological dispersal, which is the ability to migrate from adverse sites to other hospitable ones.

Gerhard Haszprunar, director of the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich, declared the study plausible. The release of this study’s results coincided with the euthanization of the only surviving male White Rhino, Sudan on 20 March 2018 at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia Kenya. This was the world’s last male northern White Rhino. According to the Kenyan conservancy that had been taking care of the late Sudan, he is survived by two females of its subspecies in the whole world. The Ol Pejeta Conservancy in their statement said that they chose to euthanize Sudan after observing it was in intolerable pain related to old-age (45 years) and rotten wounds from previous injuries.

Thus, the only option left for the world to preserve the white-rhino through the remaining two female ones is using non-sexual reproduction known as cloning.

Causes of shrinkage

This fateful future facing the animal bio-diversity is not only limited to the big animals, but insects too. Deutsch Welle online reported early 2018 that the Monarch butterfly, which always travels thousands of miles south to overwinter in Mexico is now not able to achieve this marvellous travel. The butterfly, commonly found around Europe, Canada, North America and north Africa, is suffering extreme decrease in numbers at the rate of 15 per cent per year due the changing climate.

This butterfly is the only insect that every year travels for two months and up to five thousand kilometres from Canada and the United States to Mexico, where it spends the winter.

Among the suspected causes of the shrinkage in numbers are: pesticides usage, storms, intense hurricane seasons that disrupt insect routes, cutting or felling trees, and windstorms.

Similarly, poaching is a threat to safety of the current animal biodiversity in Asia and Africa. Pangolins have been cited by the Global Wildlife Conservationists as the world’s most poached animals. Pangolins are heavily poached for their skin-scales which are used in traditional remedies for the cure of asthma, rheumatism and arthritis. The key market for the Pangolins is in China. China is also the major destination of donkeys that are un-lawfully slaughtered in Africa. Reportedly, China uses donkey-hide gelatine, obtained by boiling donkey skin, as a miracle elixir that cures human-aging, infertility and impotence.

Recently, Tom Milliken of the Elephant and Rhino Program was quoted by the Deutsch Welle when he said that there is currently an expansion of wildlife smuggling networks across Africa in which Chinese and Vietnamese nationals are working with corrupt local officials. This report rhymes with the recent statement by Brighton Kumchedwa, Malawi´s Director of Parks and Wildlife that most African governments are failing to declare their ivory stockpiles due to lack of informational resources that can be used in compiling the report about proper inventories of ivory stock piles.

However, there is some promising gleam on protection of wildlife. Kenya serves as a good example given its historic firmness on ban of ivory trade often expressed through regular destruction of ivory stockpile. Thus, the world has a moral duty to preserve wildlife that’s targeted by poachers for illegal trade.

Alexander Opicho is a freelance Journalist based in Lodwar.


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