Continuing Human Population Growth Overwhelming, Wiping out World Wildlife

Published on September 22nd, 2015

“Can you think of any problem on any scale, from microscopic to global, whose long-term solution is in any way aided, assisted, or advanced by having larger populations at the local level, state level, nationally, or globally? Can you think of anything that will get better, if we crowd more people into our towns, cities, states, nations, or world?”

Dr. Albert Bartlett (1923-2013), physics professor at Colorado University, who CAPS often references for his clear mathematical illustrations on how populations grow, posed those questions. Thoughtful, fact-based thinking and analysis will lead rational people to conclude “No” in response to his questions.

Certainly when seeing the alarming loss of the world’s biodiversity – Earth has lost half of its wildlife in the past 40 years – the answer to Bartlett’s questions is “No.” The tragic stories of wildlife decline and extinction are many across the nation, from the immense flocks of the passenger pigeon which were said to darken daytime skies in America when they flew at the end of the 19th century and the California grizzly, now only seen on the state flag, to the California condor and lesser prairie chicken, among so many others.

Graph of population growth and animal extinction

Each story of diminished numbers or extinction has the hand of Man in it. Here in California – the country’s most populous state – habitat loss due to human population growth is the single largest threat to animals, according to the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. And the story of habitat loss for wildlife is being played out the world over. Add to habitat loss – by man’s ever-growing encroachment – trophy hunting and poaching, and species are being decimated across the world.decline of big cats

Many now are familiar with population collapses among the big cats, elephants, giraffes and polar bears, but the rhinoceros, a big, happy plant eater and the world’s largest mammal after the elephant, also is threatened by a tremendous rate of poaching.

Damien Mander of IAPF
Damien Mander of IAPF

Last week, Damien Mander, founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, was in Los Angeles to talk with activists and influencers about his current project in Kruger National Park in South Africa, the rhino poaching crisis and solutions.

Following a nine-year military career which included 12 tours of duty in Iraq, Mander was reborn in Africa as a conservationist and began applying his military skills in 2009 to saving animals from poachers – he began fighting the “Rhino Wars,” which started ratcheting up in 2008. South Africa is home to 75 percent of the world’s rhinos, which are poached for their horns. While having no medicinal benefits, rhino horn nonetheless is used to “treat” a variety of health conditions, with Vietnam being one of the largest subscribers to this illegal trade.rhino poaching in South Africa

The rhino poaching crisis is complex, involving a decades-long ban on rhino horn trade, corruption and a culture that does not see intrinsic value in wildlife. The largest rhino population in the world also lives next to one of the poorest countries in the world, Mozambique, where population has exploded from 6.4 million in 1950 to 26 million today and is expected to double by 2050, and where some 230 species are threatened.

Solutions too will be complex and will need to involve resolving trade issues, fighting corruption, attacking an international pipeline for rhino parts and reducing demand, as well as instituting tougher laws and penalties on poachers, traffickers and the criminal networks, and “winning hearts and minds,” Mander says.

Reducing population to sustainable numbers – a focus area for CAPS – also is part of the solution. But as with the other components of solving this problem, stabilizing and then reducing population is long-term work. Mander’s work is immediate, as he and IAPF work at the very front of this crisis, part of the “thin green line” to stop animal killers in their track.

“Chasing poachers is not the solution,” Mander knows, adding, “We’re the guys who buy time.”

Since today is World Rhino Day, it’s a good day to thank IAPF for its front-line work to protect biodiversity.

Today is World Rhino Day.
Why we care …
“It’s a global responsibility to protect these animals.
If we can’t implement plans to save these and other animals,”
says Damien Mander of IAPF, “there’s no help for us.”

rhino and baby
World Rhino Day logo

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