Meet Imogen, a 10 month old baby koala at the Symbio Wildlife Park in Australia. It is her first photo shoot and she is darling. Watch her overwhelming cuteness as she eats greens, plays, and, well, simply exists. Fun fact — a baby koala is called a “joey.” Watch the little video and this joyful joey will surely make you smile:
Humans have done a lot of damage to our planet, but some of the worst has been killing off the predators. It’s a crime against nature and here’s why.
Predators are essential to maintaining healthy ecosystems and when these killers are eliminated, it throws things out of balance. It can even cause a “trophic cascade,” which is a series of effects through an entire food chain.
Several studies have shown the negative impact of killing off predators. For example, a 1966 study found that when a predatory starfish was eliminated from a coastal habitat, it caused mussels to move down from the tide line and displace several organisms including barnacles, sea anemones, and other diverse species.
In another study, sea otters were overhunted, which caused sea urchins to multiply and eat entire kelp forests. This was also recently linked to the extinction of the Steller’s sea cow, which used to eat that kelp, in the 18th century. These are just two of many studies that show the effects of killing predators.
So, why do we kill the predators of our world? Part of it is from our evolutionary history, dating back to when our ancestors had to kill predators that posed as both competition and threats to our survival.
Another reason is for economic interest, where people kill predators as a cautionary way to prevent them from attacking their livestock (which isn’t an overly frequent occurrence). This economic interest also takes shape in poaching and hunting trophies, like in the case of Cecil the lion.
Humans have already driven several modern-day predators to extinction, including North Africa’s Atlas bear, North America’s short-faced brown bear, the Caspian tiger, a marsupial carnivore in Tasmania called the thylacine, and the Zanzibar leopard.
Furthermore, humans have pushed remaining big predators into a fraction of their old territories. Leopards are gone from 66% of their original range in Africa and 85% in Eurasia. Tigers now have a mere 7% of their original territory and African lions have just 8%. And gray wolves only exist in Minnesota and Alaska now.
Our emotions tell us to eliminate predators, whether because of fear or greed, but in reality, these actions interfere with and destroy ecosystems. Instead, humans should celebrate these animals and what they do for our world, and save our planet by saving the predators.
Puffin and turtle dove populations have dropped so drastically that they now face the same threat of extinction as the African elephant and lion.
For the first time, Atlantic puffins and European turtle doves have been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. In total, four UK bird species were added, doubling the number of commonly-seen bird species with “vulnerable” statuses. Furthermore, 14 UK species are now considered “near threatened.”
“Today’s announcement means that the global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores. The number of species facing extinction has always been highest in the tropics, particularly on small islands. But now the crisis is beginning to exact an increasingly heavy toll on temperate regions too, such as Europe. The erosion of the UK’s wildlife is staggering and this is reinforced when you talk about puffin and turtle dove now facing the same level of extinction threat as African elephant and lion, and being more endangered than the humpback whale.”
Climate change, gill net fishing, invasive predators and high breeding failures are the major factors in the puffin’s population decline. Atlantic puffin numbers are suffering in Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands, which constitutes 80% of the European population. Numbers are also declining in Fair Isle and Shetland, UK.
The turtle dove has also suffered drastic declines across Europe, with more than a 30% decline in the last 16 years. More than 9 out of every 10 birds have been lost since the 1970s. Potential causes include hunting while migrating, shifts in land-use patterns and climate change. RSPB spokesman Grahame Madge says:
“We are researching a number of different reasons why, including changes in agricultural practice across Europe, which means a struggle to find food and nesting sites…We do know there is strong illegal hunting of turtle dove around the Mediterranean.”
What is one of the baleen whale’s favorite food? Krill. But as carbon dioxide levels rise, it creates a big problem for these tiny crustaceans.
Studies at the Australian Antarctic Division agency found that krill eggs do not hatch when exposed to higher CO2 levels. In fact, Antarctic Division biologist So Kawaguchi believes there will be a 20-70% decline in Antarctic krill populations by the year 2100 and a complete extinction by 2300. Dr. Kawaguchi says:
“Higher levels of carbon dioxide in the water mean greater levels of ocean acidification. This interrupts the physiology of krill. It stops the eggs hatching, or the larvae developing.”
Although krill are tiny creatures, they are one of the most abundant species on earth and have a massive role in the marine ecosystem. They sit at the bottom of the ocean food chain and serve as sustenance for (or sustenance for the prey of) several animals such as fish, squid, sea birds, seals and whales. If krill die off – or populations diminish significantly – it will have a serious, negative impact on baleen whales and much of the ocean’s ecosystem.
It’s not too late, however, as Kawaguchi suggests a moratorium on fishing in the region until the agency can dive deeper into the effects ocean acidification has on krill.
While several species will struggle to survive climate change, a few animals may benefit from the rising temperatures. Specifically, the moose and snowshoe hares in the Arctic regions would benefit from the increased availability of shrubs and similar foods.
A new study looked at these two animals and how climate change may be supporting the growth of their populations. The team found that with warming temperatures came the growth of more shrubs and with more shrubs came more moose and hares.
However, an increase in moose and snowshoe hares has its impacts on the area’s ecosystem and wildlife management. For example, it causes predators, like various birds of prey and the lynx, to become more frequent visitors. In addition, tundra species that prefer open habitats may decline as their habitat shrinks and they are out-competed by moose and hares.
Over the next 100 years, our planet’s tropical amphibians may go extinct.
A new study found that in the last 30-40 years, 200 frog species have gone extinct around the world and that hundreds more may disappear in the next century. Habitat loss and destruction, climate change and deadly diseases are the factors that put these amphibians at risk.
John Alroy, associate professor in biological sciences at the Macquarie University in Australia authored the study. To estimate the number of extinct species, he looked at samples from museums of amphibians and reptiles in nine different regions and compared them to published observations.
Some of the worst rates of extinction were in Latin America, possibly due to the chytrid fungus. Alroy says:
“There’s pretty good agreement that the biggest threat for amphibians is the [chytrid] (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) fungus. However, I think habitat destruction might have a bigger role than people realize — and future climate change is going to have huge and unpredictable consequences.”
While tropical amphibians face high extinction rates, those in the Southeast United States do not. In addition, reptiles in all regions faced low extinction rates except in a few areas like Madagascar.
Over 9,000 feet below the surface, off the coast of Puerto Rico, scientists saw some creatures for the first time ever. In April 2015, a team of scientists embarked on a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expedition that captured incredible images of these deep-sea creatures. The ship, called the Okeanos Explorer, journeyed into largely uncharted ecosystems, including the seafloor, and investigated what lives in these unknown and little-known areas.
There isn’t a poaching crisis for these big cats, unlike their feline fellows in Africa. But climate change is a real threat.
Snow leopards live in rocky mountain ranges in Central Asia and this high-altitude habitat is very, very vulnerable to rising temperatures. If action is not taken, more than one third of the snow leopards’ habitat will become unsuitable to them.
The snow leopard population has decreased by 20% in the past 16 years, with just 4,000 left in the wild. The big cats already face threats from human conflict and climate change only exacerbates this decline.
As more habitat becomes available, humans can expand and encroach on the mountains, which results in a smaller hunting range for the leopards. Conservationists are also concerned that climate change will result in more killing of snow leopards, to prevent or retaliate against any conflict with livestock.
Furthermore, these mountains not only provide a home for snow leopards, but they also provides water for more than 330 million of people. Climate change could have serious impacts on the water flow from the mountains, threatening the livelihoods of all those people depending on it.
WWF Global Snow Leopard Leader, and coordinator of WWF’s first ever global strategy to conserve the species, Rishi Kumar Sharma says:
“Urgent action is needed to curb climate change and prevent further degradation of snow leopard habitat, otherwise the ‘ghost of the mountains’ could vanish, along with critical water supplies for hundreds of millions of people.”