“Species v Sapiens”: the Human-Wildlife conflict dilemma
As the world’s population continues to grow, areas where wildlife can thrive are diminishing. There appears to be nowhere on Earth that humanity cannot penetrate– mainly due to the inhabitants overflow. This inevitably increases the number of conflicts between humans and wildlife experienced worldwide, a phenomenon known as ‘Human-Wildlife Conflict’ (HWC). When wild animals lose their native habitats and have reduced access to natural food sources, they devour crops, attack livestock, destroy property, and injury or, unfortunately, kill people. In response, humans frequently capture or hunt them down! To help you better understand the context, here are some global trends that influence the conflict between human and wildlife.
The biggest threat to biodiversity comes from the clearing of natural habitats to make way for agriculture. According to a new study, the world needs between 770,000 and 3.9 million square miles of new agricultural land by 2050 to continue current production processes and feed the growing population. Such expansion would devastate the habitats of nearly 90% of terrestrial animal species, resulting in a widespread biodiversity crisis. Almost 1,300 species would be in danger of losing at least a quarter of their habitat due to the food production system; a significant portion of habitat loss is expected to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest, Eastern Argentina, and South and Southeast Asia.
Livestock populations are the planet’s dominating ecological and economic force; global growth in livestock production is a primary source of HWC in some areas. Habitat loss and degradation directly caused by it and poaching justified by predation are significant factors reducing predator species. For instance, the Cheetah, who plays an essential role in the ecosystems, is currently facing habitat loss and connection limits to the species due to persecution and killing of individuals. That leads to decreasing in number and is designated as vulnerable species.
Forests are frequently cleared to make room for agriculture or cattle grazing. Commercial logging adds to deforestation by cutting down trees for development. The primary cause of deforestation in developing countries is competitive global economic exploitation and the use of land for farming and sustenance. These demands are only increasing as population numbers rise!
Clear-cutting can be very damaging to forest ecosystems, particularly in rainforest habitats; rainforest deforestation severely impacts the entire ecosystem because clear-cut land is more vulnerable to soil erosion without root security holding it together.
The single greatest killer of biodiversity is habitat destruction; forests hold the most significant proportion of terrestrial biodiversity. The variety of different plant and animal species decreases with increasing deforestation. This correlation is clear with rising global extinction rates; according to the IUCN Red List, a whopping 32,000 species are threatened with extinction!
Some animals’ lives depend on forests; the Orangutan, the world’s largest climbing mammals, habitat is rapidly shrinking due to the development of oil palm plantations and other agricultural operations. More than half of orangutans are now located outside protected areas in forests managed by forestry, palm oil, and mining corporations. This means that these species are critically threatened and are sadly likely to gradually disappear!
Global energy consumption have increased astronomically; this represents a significant threat to animal conflict and conservation. Oil exploration and exploitation endangers wildlife populations both directly (drilling) and indirectly (climate change) everywhere! Apart from fuel energy, a growing footprint in renewable energy also creates negative impacts on wildlife. Renewable energy frequently necessitates the use of more land than fossil fuel production, with infrastructure fragmenting or even wiping high-quality wildlife habitat. It can also have several adverse effects on animals, including behavioral changes and direct mortality. For instance, wind turbines- if development weren’t thoughtfully planned and implemented without recognizing the consequences- can kill millions of migratory birds and bats each year due to collisions.
Urbanization effects on wildlife
55% of the world’s population currently live in urban areas which is projected to increase to 68% in 2050 (UN DESA, 2018). Expanding urban regions cause dramatic landscape changes which can cause permanent damage over prolonged ecological periods. There is still a significant lack of research in understanding the mechanics and effects of urbanization on wildlife. The current rate of urbanization is unprecedented, posing a severe threat to biodiversity. It represents one of the most significant environmental challenges to our time. Urbanization causes habitat fragmentation, in which environments are fragmented into smaller disconnected areas. It also contributes to habitat loss by increasing the land covered by roads and buildings reducing green spaces which produce biomass; the single most important element to support life.
Induced by air, noise, light pollution and poor diet may increase susceptibility to parasites and disease. Environmental contaminants (e.g. air pollution) can have surprising consequences on wild animals as well.
The cloudiness of vicious cycle
Our population numbers have skyrocketed, from 2 billion in 1900 to 7.9 billion in June 2021.
We are living in the contemporary world, and urbanization is also important for human affairs. The economic pull and massive influence in the cities are much bigger compared to some developing countries.
Both push (factors that drive people from the countryside) and pull (factors that attract people in urban areas) drive the migration that leads to urbanization. We cannot deny that urbanization improves people’s quality of life. It brings together economic and human resources to stimulate the economy through business, research, technology, and industry development. It also focuses on more cost-effective and efficient methods of supplying city facilities such as power. Because of this concentration of people and resources, cities have much more widely available of education, health, social services, and cultural activities.
In order for countries to successfully raise their human affairs through urbanization, along the way, this process inevitably leads to global issues mentioned above. The rise in population is causing a global increase in livestock production. Meanwhile, urban expansion frequently extends into agriculture and natural territory, including forests, resulting in deforestation and clear-cutting.
Voice your opinion
With limited untouched, natural areas for wildlife migration, they will likely be forced into more densely populated human areas resulting in increasing Human-Wildlife conflict scenarios and the devastating cycle that comes with it. Human-Wildlife Conflict avoidance can be viewed as one of the many essential measures in maintaining our beautiful and irreplaceable environment – measures need to be developed that allow people to live side-by-side with wildlife the world over.
We have been inventing and involving for centuries in these wicked problems. So what do you think of this complicated story? The world is industrializing, evolving, and how could humans progress all the “development” without destroying our planet? Wildchain wants to be a leading tool to inspire you to save our world. Check out our website and social media to learn more about what we do and how you can help!
Ice is a content creator intern at Wildchain. She sees that our arms reach all corners of the globe and an interconnected world that fuels increasingly complex challenges. As a Global Studies student, she passionate about ending global issues, especially ones related to human actions. Wildchain is a big step for her to inform people about global issues to watch while embracing awareness of wildlife and the environment.