Where will go the wild?

Wildlife needs habitat off the beaten track


We are currently losing, worldwide, about 100 species per day. The reason for this is simply we as humans think that we own, and have the right to dominate, every square inch of the Earth. Species are becoming extinct or are moving fast towards endangerment to become extinct because of an out and out  destruction of habitat (e.g. paving it or turning it into agriculture farms, golf courses, housing developments, fruit orchards or tourist attraction areas), thereby making the wilderness areas untenable (useless) as wildlife habitats.
In four million years of human progression on earth, there has never been an area inaccessible to humans i.e. an area which we deliberately choose not to enter so that the other species that live there can flourish unmolested by humans. There are places like Wildlife Protected Areas falling under different categories i.e. National Parks, Sanctuaries or Reserves, which despite having strict laws, rules or guidelines for their management as wildlife habitats, face lot of biotic / anthropogenic interference. Besides, the intentional human recreation has always remained a priority there. To my knowledge, there has never been any place, irrespective of its area size, from which the human community has voluntarily excluded itself.
In the recent years, there has been a lot of talk about looking for life forms on other planets. But, the hundred million dollar question is why should we do this? Is it our quest to find these planets to invade the even more fragile habitats that may be found there and destroy their life forms, the way we have already treated the wildlife on this planet? I hope we never find it!
While the thought of finding such life is intriguing, I haven’t heard anyone suggest that how are we going to communicate with intelligent life on other planets, when we can’t even communicate with the intelligent life on this planet?
Traditionally, observing, feeding, and photographing wildlife were considered to be 'non-consumptive' activities because removal of animals from their natural habitats is not involved. However, today, there is a growing recognition that wildlife viewing recreation can have serious negative impacts on wildlife, because, these activities are extensive in nature and have the ability to disrupt wildlife in many ways, particularly by displacing animals from an area. Recreational disturbance has traditionally been viewed as most detrimental to wildlife during the breeding season. People have an impact on wildlife habitat and all that depends on it, no matter what the activity is. Perhaps the major way that people have influenced wildlife populations is through encroachment into wildlife areas. Recreationists are, ironically, destroying the very thing they love i.e. the blooming buzzing confusion of nature.
In other words, if we are to preserve the other species with which we share the Earth, we need to set aside large, interconnected areas of habitat that are entirely off limits to humans. My idea of what constitutes viable habitat is not important but what matters is how the wildlife who live there think.
When a road is built through a wildlife habitat, many species will not cross it, even though they are physically capable of doing so. For example, a musk deer that prefers dense vegetation as its habitat may be afraid to cross such an open area where the animal may be vulnerable to attack by poachers or its predators. The result is a loss of habitat, a portion of preferred mates, foods, and other resources of the species have become effectively unavailable to it. This can reduce population size of the species, cause its inbreeding, impoverish its gene pool, and impair its ability to adapt to changing circumstances (such as global warming). It can lead to local (and eventually, final) extinction. Small, isolated populations can easily be wiped out by a fire, flood or any other natural catastrophe.
For that matter, we have to learn lessons from our observations in some of our top ranking Protected Areas. For example our observations suggest that the increasing anthropogenic pressures in Dachigam National Park are tending to change its basic ecology gradually. The forest fires are now a regular phenomenon there. New opportunistic species like wolves, which so far had no history of their presence in the area, have started to invade the park area and the traditional species like hangul, musk deer etc, which used to be a common feature of the park, are now, slowly but surely, becoming a history.
As such, this is the time we need to realize that unlike wild animal species we are so flexible that we can survive practically anywhere on Earth, and perhaps other places as well, but, wild animals generally prefer human-free habitat. While as on the other hand they are psychologically so similar to us, we have very little excuse to treat them differently, if we deserve to be unmolested in our homes, so do they

(Dr. Mir M. Mansoor is Chief Wildlife Biologist, J&K State. Feedback at mirmnsur@gmail.com)

Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Jan 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 13 Jan 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 14 Jan 2011 00:00:00 IST

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