Wildlife is going extinct in alarming numbers all over the world.
Birds are some of the most endangered species. Very recently it was discovered that 29% of all North American Birds have flat disappeared since 1970. This means that there are 2.9 billion fewer birds taking wing now than there were 50 years ago.
About 90 percent of primates — the group that contains monkeys, lemurs, lorids, galagos, tarsiers, and apes (as well as humans) — live in tropical forests, which are fast disappearing. The IUCN estimates that almost 50 percent of the world’s primate species are at risk of extinction. The IUCN is The International Union for Conservation of Nature.
“Overall, the IUCN estimates that half the globe’s 5,491 known mammals are declining in population and a fifth are clearly at risk of disappearing forever with no less than 1,131 mammals across the globe classified as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable. In addition to primates, marine mammals — including several species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises — are among those mammals slipping most quickly toward extinction. “
Below this article are a bunch of my wildlife pictures. I was mainly a landscape photographer, but since great landscapes are often full of wildlife, over the years I have photographed a fair amount of wildlife also.
One of the distressing things about photographing wildlife over a long period, is that after awhile you begin to notice that there is not as much of it out there as there once was. Wildlife is going extinct, clearly. And this is only part of the story.
All of us tend to believe that the abundant wildlife we remember from our childhoods was the way it always was. Wrong. Before the twentieth century wildlife was present in unbelievably large herds and schools and packs and flocks.
Flocks that sometimes filled the skies and blocked out the sun, herds that went on for miles and miles and often for days and days. Schools of fish were often so multitudinous that they stopped the passage of boats and even ships. Schools of fish actually overturned small boats.
Because we never experienced any of this, we don’t realize it really existed unless we read centuries old descriptions.
The human decimation of wildlife goes way back.
When humans were just leaving Africa, fifty thousand of so years ago, wildlife was unbelievably prolific. Humans were just a small spec in a huge sea of wildlife. However that didn’t last for long. As humans began spreading out over the earth from their original home in East Africa 50,000 years ago, they literally killed and ate all the large animals they found. And I mean everything.
Early humans made large numbers of species extinct. It turns out that humans are the most skilled and blood-thirsty animals in existence. In fact, within a few thousand and often a few hundred years or less, after entering a new continent or island, humans killed off almost every one of the large mammals that originally lived there.
That is perhaps one reason humans turned to agriculture rather than the earlier hunter-gatherer style of life. This story has been endlessly documented and retold hundreds of times both in narrative histories and in carefully researched science.
One of the better books about what the earth in all its amazing early fertility was like is The Once and Future World, by JB MacKinnon. Five hundred years ago, America was still an unrivaled Eden. The passenger pigeon, even in the early 1880s was thought to be the most abundant bird on the earth. Aldo Leopold eulogized them as “a living wind” and John Muir recalled “their low buzzing wing roar.” In small towns they are said to have blotted out the sun as huge flocks took off. There are stories of pigeons settling on tree limbs in such numbers that their weight snapped off every limb on the tree. And then they all died quite suddenly. The last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo in 1914.
In 1541 Hernando de Soto reported seeing uncountable buffalo when he crossed the Texas panhandle. There were so many, he said, they were never out of sight. Even in the early 19th century huge buffalo herds hundreds of miles wide still covered the western plains. There are stories of the buffalo hunters slaughtering buffalo by the thousands until their guns got so hot they seized up and the piles of buffalo skulls reached the size of two story houses.
But even at almost the very end of this killing spree in the late 19th century there were still massive numbers of animals roaming the plains of the American west. Dan Flores tells the story of the last great wildlife slaughter that happened in the last 50 years of the 19th century. His book is called American Serengeti: The last Big Animals of the Great Plains.
Flores begins his book a little further back though. He also describes the original slaughter of the America’s wildlife by the first Americans 8000 to 14000 years ago. He says during this time 30 genera of American Pleistocene animals completely vanished. (Genera is the plural of genus and genus is the biological category of life that contains species. Each genera contains multiple species.) I’m not sure how many species went extinct in this onslaught but it was a large number.
And skipping a whole lot more slaughter, we finally arrive at the present day. In May of 2019, the UN released a new 1500 page report describing the fact that “as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction.” There is not doubt in this report that Wildlife is going extinct.
An article in the New Your times about this report gives some distressing detail. It says that:
“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”
“The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.” The report clearly says wildlife is going extinct.
“Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.””
“At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with the other ways humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species, such as the Bengal tiger, closer to extinction.”
So, after that extremely brief discussion of the ongoing extinction of wildlife and many other living organisms, we finally get to some animal pictures.
More information about the fact that wildlife are going extinct in alarming numbers all over the world.
See a lot more of our bird pictures in our Bosque del Apache post