Today is World Elephant Day

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By Maria Fotopoulos

Maria is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow who focuses on the impacts of growth on biodiversity. Find her on Twitter | in | FB.

The writer’s views are her own.


 

August 12, 2014

Today is World Elephant Day. Sunday was World Lion Day. Frankly, every day could be given over to recognizing an animal, because we must do more to build awareness of what man is doing worldwide to destroy our rich biodiversity. Simultaneously, we must work to stop more losses and then reverse the trends.

As Leon Kolankiewicz, wildlife biologist, and environmental scientist and planner, writes:

On a global scale, up to one third of all vertebrate species are already threatened or endangered. Some sources estimate today’s extinction rate at a thousand times the natural or background rate; the creation of new species can’t keep up with the accelerating losses.

Large mammals such as elephants, rhinoceroses and polar bears, known as the megafauna, are particularly vulnerable. The megafauna often have body parts in demand by humans – tusks in elephants, horns in rhinos, gall bladders in bears, etc. – that render them targets of poaching. Some are also killed indiscriminately for meat.

Megafauna also require more land and habitat to support viable populations, which frequently puts them in conflict with exponentially expanding human demands on land and resources from population and economic growth. In addition, large animals produce fewer offspring and have low population growth rates; their numbers can’t ‘bounce back’ as quickly as smaller animals.

Put most succinctly, humans are leading the Sixth Extinction. The Sixth Extinction is well documented, so it’s not a time for debate, but a time for action. Our task at this time is gargantuan – stabilize and reverse population growth for the human population, and protect plant and animal species. And, oh, by the way, on the to-do list, we have to better educate the people of the world, and create peace and economic stability worldwide in order to do the things in the previous line.

Sure, no problem.

Looking at the number of global hotspots for war, terrorism, religious fundamentalism, overpopulation and societal breakdown, I suspect many of us feel increasingly overwhelmed by the news and “state of the world.” There’s probably a strong inclination to “tune out” rather than engage, which is completely understandable.

But, we indeed are in the 11th Hour, and we have to quadruple our positive efforts to deflect all the negative forces in play. While we can’t all be the “boots on the ground,” we can be conscientious about where and how we direct our community giving.

As I read about World Lion Day this weekend, I learned about the Lion Guardians. I liked what I read about this organization, because the people living in lion territory are the people protecting the lions. Nothing makes more sense than people in a given habitat protecting that habitat.

The Lion Guardians preserve the cultural, pastoral traditions and engage warriors in protecting lions rather than killing them. More than 40 warriors are employed as Lion Guardians covering over 4,000 km² of Kenya’s essential wildlife habitat in the Amboseli ecosystem and the Ruaha landscape of Tanzania. The Lion Guardians monitor movement of the lions, give warning to cattle and sheep herders when lions are in the area, recover lost livestock, reinforce protective fencing and intervene to stop lion hunting parties.

The work of these guardians has decreased livestock losses and, in turn, decreased the urge to retaliate against the animals. According to the organization’s website, lion killing in the areas overseen by the guardians has been nearly eliminated, and the Amboseli lion population is growing, making this important ecosystem one of the few areas in Africa where lion numbers are on the rise.

I’ve not yet done my “due diligence” on organizations that are working to save elephants, but this site looked like a good start with more than 50 groups listed.

Please continue too to support organizations that work to stabilize human population, including Californians for Population Stabilization. Only with accurate information about the impacts of human population growth can our leaders make informed decisions and implement appropriate policies for all of the planet’s rich biodiversity.

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