World Animal Day: Our future generations deserve the chance to see tigers in their natural habitat
By Pradip Shah,
As we continue to erect larger structures and encroach on forests for purposes that benefit only humankind, wildlife appears to be taking the brunt of the consequences. The loss of natural habitats, human-animal conflicts and the threat of extinction are just a few serious consequences of deforestation and land degradation. Deforestation occurs in many forms: forest fires, clearcuts for agriculture, development activities, unsustainable logging for timber, and degradation due to climate change. This has a direct impact on the livelihoods of rural communities and also threatens our biodiversity.
Wildlife in India is a beautiful gift from nature, with a vast array of diverse flora and fauna ranging from the languid but endearing red panda of Sikkim to the watchful Hangul found in Kashmir. It is a well known fact that India is home to 16 percent of the world’s population. However, it is a lesser known fact that 411 species of mammals, 1,232 birds, 456 reptiles, 219 amphibians, 2,546 fish and 83,436 kinds of invertebrates, and over 50,000 plant species also inhabit this vast subcontinent. but diverse.
World Animal Day is an attempt to refocus our attention on our wildlife and the role it plays in the development of healthy ecosystems around the world. The cumulative effect of degraded natural ecosystems and endemic illicit activities has resulted in declining populations of wild animals, endangered species and increased human-animal conflict.
An ecosystem is made up of a group of organisms and the environment in which they live, which functions as an ecological unit. Every animal in the ecosystem plays an important role in the health of the planet. If a species goes extinct as a result of an imbalance, it can have far-reaching consequences for the rest of the chain. For example, even a small bee plays an important role in the pattern of events in nature. Plants, flowers and grasses would not flower if the pollen was not carried by them. In some situations, even the ability of humans to cultivate particular crops is influenced by the presence or absence of bees. When the bee population declines, individuals must rent beehives and place them at sites to aid in pollination.
Plants play an important role in maintaining the health and well-being of our environment, but we cannot ignore the role of animals in our ecosystems. While herbivores control the populations of many plant species through seed dispersal or pollination, predators help control the pressure on plants by limiting the number of herbivores. When animals die, decomposers begin to break them down, releasing nutrients into the soil that plants need to thrive.
Protecting our animals will also mean protecting our forests. For example, the presence of a rich population of tigers encourages governments to introduce several policies and programs that can help protect forests. Trees are essential for sequestering carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat and contributes to global warming. As a result, safeguarding the habitat of tigers and other animals will help preserve our forests, which are essential for carbon storage.
Hundreds of millions of people depend on water from areas where tigers and other animals are found. Protected forests provide cleaner water and limit the amount of silt that reaches rivers, streams and reservoirs. They also play an important role in regulating water flow. Protecting wildlife also involves safeguarding critical freshwater supplies and functions. The variety of cultures, languages and societies is disappearing at the same rate as its biodiversity. WWF also found that traditional and indigenous people living with tigers as close neighbors, many of whom depend on forests for their livelihoods and survival, speak more than a quarter of the endangered languages assessed to date across the range. tigers. Considering that traditional and indigenous communities depend on forests for a plethora of natural resources, the protection of natural habitats is essential to their survival.
Animals and sea creatures are just as essential as humans to maintaining a healthy ecological balance on the planet. Each organism on our planet occupies a distinct position in the food chain, contributing to the environment in a unique way. The ecosystem is made up of interactions between species that are linked via food webs and food chains. Even if a single animal species disappears from the ecosystem, it can disrupt the entire food chain, leading to devastating consequences.
According to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020, the global population of amphibians, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles declined by 68% between 1970 and 2016. WWF says India’s six priority species , which inhabit the many landscapes and forests of our vast nation, are classified as “threatened” by IUCN. The red panda, Bengal tiger, Ganges dolphin and Asian elephant are all endangered species, while the snow leopard and the great one-horned rhino are vulnerable.
Grow-Trees.com has started afforestation programs in 23 Indian states in response to the dire wildlife situation in our country. While each project aims to improve the environmental conditions of a region to maintain the natural habitats of animals and improve the living conditions of rural and tribal communities, some initiatives such as trees for tigers, trees for red pandas, trees for elephants and trees for giant flying squirrels are dedicated to the protection of endangered or lesser-known species.
Planting trees and turning degraded land into forest land is one of the most effective strategies for solving the majority of today’s environmental problems. Human encroachment on formerly protected habitats poses a danger to animals, depriving them of their homes and causing them to seek refuge in human settlements. Wildlife will thrive when natural habitats are restored, but nature’s ecological balance will also be restored.
Our future generations deserve the chance to see a tiger on the Ranthambore safari or spot a rhino in Kaziranga. Living in harmony with nature will not seem so far fetched if we recognize our duty to the environment and animals, and build a world where human-animal cohabitation is not an alien concept.
(The author is a co-founder and director of Social Enterprise-Grow-Trees.com. Opinions expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)