Hunting for food and purported medicinal products is threatening more than 300 species of mammals with extinction in what is being called a global crisis by The Royal Society, an independent scientific academy in the UK.
According to a Royal Society study that focused on unsustainable hunting in the “wild meat” or “bushmeat” trade, most of the animals under attack are in lean economy countries in parts of Africa, Asia and South America. With the decline of these species or potential extermination if there is insufficient imminent action to reverse the situation, “many vital ecological and socio-economic services that these species provide will be lost, potentially changing ecosystems irrevocably.” The loss of life goes hand-in-hand with other realities and crises facing these developing areas related to agricultural development, deforestation, competition with livestock and human expansion leading to wildlife habitat destruction.
Even with major summits to address conservation, little progress has been made in changing the course these threatened animals are on, the Royal Society found. The population trend lines for these animals continue to worsen. Only 2 percent of the populations are “stable or increasing.” To reverse this grim situation, the organization proposes several conservation strategies to help save threatened mammals from immediate extinction and avoid a collapse of food security for hundreds of millions of people.
Among them are increased legal protections for wild mammals and increased wildlife conservation at local levels, with education on alternative foods. The Royal Society also calls for changes in international laws and policies related to “trophy hunting,” while asking wealthy countries to relook at markets that have thrived for animal-derived products – often billed as having “medicinal value,” but actually having none.
To halt the destruction of mammalian wildlife, The Royal Society also calls for increased education and family planning, and support of programs that will lead to lower human birth rates – more people means ever increasing demands on the natural world.
Africa’s population is expected to double by 2050 to 2.4 billion people. South America’s population has doubled to 424 million since the early 1970s and is expected to top 500 million by 2050. Asia’s population quadrupled in the last century, accounts for 60 percent of the world’s population with about 4.4 billion people and is expected to continue growing for the next four decades. If there’s extinction level pressure on wildlife now in these areas, will there be any wildlife remaining by 2050 unless significant measures are taken to conserve, educate humans on sustainable living and lower human birth rates?
The Royal Society study is a focused look at a segment of biodiversity devastation, but the massive and rapid overall biodiversity loss in just the last 40 years is well documented. It’s referred to as the Sixth Extinction – the greatest loss of biodiversity since the time of the dinosaurs. Astonishingly, illogically and unbelievably the coverage in mass media remains minimal. That it’s not on par with the attention given to Climate Change is a true failure of the Fourth Estate. Ditto the intrinsically linked story of human overpopulation.
By killing other living things on the current massive scale we are on a path to killing ourselves. That’s certainly a story that needs to be continuously addressed to educate and drive change.