World Wildlife Conservation Day is observed on December 4 as initiated by Hillary Clinton since 2012. This day spreads awareness about preserving Earth’s endangered flora and fauna and their survival. The 4th December is also International Cheetah Day and recently India got eight Cheetahs, five females and three males at Kono NP from Namibia after 70 years of our extinction. Today, the most invasive species on earth is the humans, causing irreparable damages to the wildlife and ecosystem.
Poaching diminishes the local economies of wildlife tourism, enhances corruption and intimidates the law enforcement agencies and challenges the wildlife staff. Consumption of wildlife is the cause of the pandemics like COVID-19, Ebola, Swine Flu and Bird flu etc.
Human interference in the world's natural ecosystem has been ongoing for centuries. In the modern world, as humans traveled and settled in different parts, they started to clear the forests and wildlife populations started to decline.
Although governments across the world are trying their best to stop the illegal wildlife trade, they are not succeeding. This will not only affect the wildlife but also the lives of millions of people who live within or vicinity to the areas.
As of now, there are 41,415 species on the IUCN red list and 16,306 of them are extremely endangered. In the last 500 years, human activity has forced 869 species to extinction. Javan Rhinos are the most critically endangered species - only 67 of them remain now. Indonesia, China and India are among the countries with the most threatened mammals and bird species. In a shocking survey, it is found that the wildlife population size dropped by 68 per cent between 1970 and 2020.
In an ecosystem, if any link in the food chain breaks, it causes ripples far and wide. Overhunting, overfishing and deforestation are all culprits, but none of these are beyond our control. By celebrating this day, we can send a message that these human activities can’t go unchecked.
Wildlife conservation is an integral part of creating a sustainable world. Ensuring earth remains as a thriving and breathing planet, we must take care of everything in it. The loss of a species can lead to changes in an environment, which can directly affect the whole living beings around. Experts estimate that about 200 species become extinct for every 24 hours -more than 1000 times the natural rate of extinction.
India is facing acute challenges in wildlife conservation but still trying to protect the critical species and eco-regions from many challenges. There are many animals and plants in our forests and around. Due to this wildlife, our environmental balance is preserved intake. Any harm to the wilderness can pose a threat to the entire ecosystem.
India owns 7.8 per cent of the recorded species of biodiversity reserved in the planet. More than 500 species of mammals, 1220 species of birds, 1,600 species of reptiles and amphibians populate in this subcontinent. India owns 80 per cent of the world's wild tiger population, 60 per cent of Asian elephants, 80 per cent of the one-horned rhinoceros and the entire remaining population of the Asiatic lions. But our rich wildlife brings itself with several threats as well.
Manipur, with 1,200 species of plants and animals, always fascinates us. These species comprises of 1200 medicinal plants, 500 orchids, 52 edible fruits, 55 species of bamboo, 75 each of woody plants besides 695 birds, 21 migratory birds, 160 species of fishes including 29 in ornamental forms and many more big animals. The state supports nearly 40 per cent of the total flowering plants recorded in India, out of which 31.58 per cent are endemic. But the region is suffering from the acute environmental degradation and social problems, threatening to the permanent loss of our flora and fauna. We may not bring back our once abundant rare animals but we could at least save our Sangai.
The animals and plants that live in the wild have an intrinsic value. Wildlife preservation is a management for human progress. A symbiotic relationship exists between the forests, wildlife, ecosystem services and the people. These spaces are not only their economic resources, but their cultural identities.
This day is an opportunity to remind the varied forms of wild fauna and flora and to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that their conservation provides to mankind. It also reminds us of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime, the fourth largest crime estimated to cost between Rs 560 and Rs 800 billion a year.
It is the need of the hour to be aware about the causes threatening the staggering wildlife. It is also necessary to understand that humans are not the only species that have the right to live on this earth and her resources. With rapid urbanization, decreasing forest covers, irregular seasonal changes and forest fires, our wildlife is threatened like never before with different plaguing to cohabitants such as man-wildlife conflict.
Children and youth are the future of wildlife conservation to live in harmony and share the planet with us. A trip with students can easily get the learning about wildlife conservation and maintenance. They must understand the important aspects of wildlife in their own life. In this way we would be able to change the entire mindsets towards wildlife conservation on this day.
So, it’s time to act and work together to preserve and protect wildlife, the most beautiful gift of God. Future of wildlife conservation depends upon the actions and values of people. Although mankind is responsible for the endangerment and extinction of our wildlife, the fact that good-hearted humans can work together to protect our wildlife and we need to start right now for a lesson. Tomorrow may be too late.
(The views expressed are personal)