The human population is rising. Wildlife habitats are decreasing. Species numbers are declining. This is an alarming fact but don’t let it depress you. Many would like to deny this but it is a fact we have to live with. By understanding how we got here in the first place we can seek out ways to be mindful of each other’s space, coexist with wildlife and maintain our environment which provides us with numerous ecosystem services.
Loss of space is a threat to many wildlife species. As humans, we have led to the destruction of habitats where wildlife called home. Today, many wildlife species find themselves in human settlements. Yet, this used to be there ancestral home. Predators have it worse as their prey disperses near human spaces. Human-wildlife conflict has become a common occurrence. Whether you live in the urban area or near protected areas there is always the scene of wildlife be it monkeys, snakes, elephants, lions or leopards. In most instances, the wildlife stands at a loss where they are chased or even killed.
It is 2019. By 2020, the human population is expected to rise to 12 billion people compared to only 115,000 chimpanzees, our closest relatives as we share 98% of our DNA. In the meantime, lions are less than 20,000 in Africa with only 2,000 in Kenya. Elephants are less than 450,000 with Botswana hosting the largest population yet the country considers the population too high. This is quite interesting considering elephants roamed in Africa in their millions unperturbed. Snakes have become a concern among people who kill them on sight lest they bite someone. This is unfortunate considering the fact a majority of the snakes are not venomous.
Can we coexist with wildlife? Can we even live with each other in peace?
The human race has taken over the world. Creating spaces for wildlife today, especially with the encroachment of land into wildlife spaces, seems impossible. But it is not.
The African Wild Dog, for example, needs large tracks of land as the species is always constantly on the move in very large territories. The existence of corridors allows families of wild dogs to move from one area to the next in search of prey and sometimes mates. With only 6600 African Wild Dogs in the wild landscapes of Africa compared to 400 million domesticated dogs, it is unfortunate to note their habitat is decreasing. The species often come into contact with domesticated dogs and may easily get infected with rabies among other canine diseases leading to their decline. The cheetah also faces the same predicament as protected areas are surrounded by human settlements.
By understanding wildlife behaviour we can be able to create spaces for wildlife to thrive. Many species especially carnivores, primates and elephants, with space their population can easily bounce back. With changing landscapes, there is need for stakeholders in wildlife to advocate for habitat conservation. There is also an urgency to consider the communities themselves who live near protected areas and how they can benefit from the wildlife that they consider a threat.
The human race is at risk as well. We may have the largest population numbers but the ecological pressure we have placed on our planet will endanger our survival. The good news is, we are not destroying nature. Nature in itself will always find a way to balance itself at all costs. Whether we stand to lose or win is upon us. Nature does not exist in a vacuum. We are always reminded that we are part of nature when floods wreak havoc, fires destroy large tracks of land and many other dangerous side effects render us powerless against the forces of nature. Wild life always adapts to these changes faster than we do.
Would wildlife be better off without us? Think about this!
We have the ability to reason and we need to use this well. We need not to continue to inhabit wildlife spaces knowing, in the end, we will stand to lose. And no, we do not need to love the environment, we only need to nurture and protect it for future generations whether animal, plant or human.
Wild spaces can exist for all!
Featured image credit © Ken Gitau