When a species of animal or plant is declared extinct, that is it…biodiversity lost each time
In early November, the Western Black Rhinoceros “was officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List” [Bickhard, 2013]. However, another organization had originally made the same declaration 2 years earlier. Nonetheless, the IUCN’s policy is to wait 5 years after the last sighting of an endangered animal before making an official announcement on it’s status. The main causes of the species’ demise were illegal poaching, for their horns to be used in traditional medicines in Asia, and failure to enforce conservation laws.
More species are sentenced to suffer the same fate should humans continue to illegally hunt, trap, and destroy their habitats. For instance, the Snow Leopard, which lives in the Himalayas, is classified as “endangered” with only 4080 – 6590 currently in the wild (WWF, 2013). Another species on the IUCN’s “Red List” is the Bonobo, found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This Chimpanzee subspecies shares up to 98% of the same DNA as humans and number at only around 10,000 – 20,000 remaining (http://www.bonobo.org/bonobos/threats/). Apart from forest destruction and being hunted for bushmeat, their population is declining due to previous civil war in the Congo, making conservation efforts difficult. Finally, the Jaguar, which has long featured in the art, mythology, and cultural beliefs of many Indigenous civilizations in the Americas (e.g., Maya & Aztec) during Pre-Columbian times is classified as “Near Threatened” (WWF, 2013). This means that its long term survival is at risk due to deforestation and could potentially place it in the same position as the Snow Leopard.
When a species of animal or plant is declared extinct, that is it. Nothing will bring back that species. Not only is biodiversity lost each time, but the entire ecosystem suffers an imbalance as each living organism plays a role in maintaining an ecosystem such as pollinating flowers or preventing herbivores from overpopulating. In addition, humanity also loses as future generations face the likelihood of never knowing , for example, what a tiger used to look like or seeing a Monarch butterfly on its migration journey.
Not only must conservation laws be tightened and enforced, but other strategies must be employed in order to protect remaining endangered species. For instance, it is crucial to involve the local populations in conservation planning, maintenance, and developing alternative sustainable industries so that they will not have to resort to illegal hunting because of their poverty. Otherwise, more species will continue to die off permanently, thereby making the planet less diverse.