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The Importance of Conservation

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"As the human environment consumes wildlife habitat, conservation is needed to maintain healthy wildlife populations in order to prevent diseases from being spread to domestic animals and humans and to maintain the present biodiversity"

Dustin Caudill
March 20, 2000
2000 Dustin Caudill

Ever since man appeared on the planet, he killed animals for food and clothing. That killing was also uncontrolled, killing whatever and as many as they wanted. Doing so, man has made many animals extinct on many continents and some completely off the face of the Earth. There once was woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers on the North American continent, and they were all hunted to complete extinction. In today's world, animals are becoming extinct not from over-hunting, but the expansion of the human race. As the human environment consumes wildlife habitat, conservation is needed to maintain healthy wildlife populations in order to prevent diseases from being spread to domestic animals and humans and to maintain the present biodiversity.

A certain habitat can only support a few animals. The food supply determines in that habitat determines the number of animals that that environment can support and this number is call the biological carrying capacity. Here is an example: a small town has a small grocery store and a restaurant. With one month of supplies, they can only support a hundred people. If there are more people in that community than what can be supported, some may have to live on a smaller food supply or move elsewhere. If a certain habitat can support only fifty animals, that habitat can only produce enough food for those animals. If there are more animals that the habitat can support, the food supply will be exhausted before it can replenish itself and the animals will become weak and starved and will die and the habitat will suffer with them. When wildlife populations are properly managed and kept at or below the carrying capacity, the wildlife and habitat will be healthy and thrive as long as it is properly managed (Jamison 6).

Wildlife populations need to be kept at large numbers, but they must be kept low enough so that their habitat can support them. When a group of animals are left to reproduce freely, they can destroy the balance of the ecosystem. If an overpopulation is left unchecked, they can completely wipe out their food supply and that food supply may take years to be restored. Farmers raising livestock, such as cow or sheep, know this better than anyone. They know how many animals that their pastures can support and for how long before they need to be moved to another pasture. If the population begins to grow and the food supply dwindles, the farmer needs to select some of those animals to be removed from the herd or the food supply will be destroyed and the herd will starve, contract and spread diseases and die. When the food supply is destroyed, like some prairie grasses, it may take twenty or thirty years for them to be able to support at large wildlife population (Jamison 5).

The other danger of over population is disease. When there is a high concentration of animals, diseases can be easily contracted and spread. Those diseases are not confined only to wildlife populations, they can be spread to domestic animals and humans. Such diseases are: sarcoptic mange, rabies, tularemia, plague, leptospirosis and distemper. All but distemper and sarcoptic mange can be transmitted to humans. Some of the aforementioned diseases can have serious affects on the central nervous system and some can be fatal (Jamison 5).

Natural predators are Nature's way of controlling grazers and other plant-eating animal populations. In fact, predators directly influence the populations of their prey. When there is a high population of predators, the prey population will become low. Obviously a high population of predators is going to need a large food base to support them. Due to this, the prey population will go down for a year or two. Like the grazers, a high population of predators will not last because they have drastically reduced their food supply. When the predator population is low, those prey animals that are left will reproduce in large numbers. If predator population is low for an extended period of time and the prey population is not controlled, as stated before, the prey species will destroy the habitat (Jamison 8).

When there is a high predator population and its food supply is low, the predator population must find alternate sources of food. Most predators are omnivores, meaning that they eat both meat and plants, but the do not rely heavily on plants as their main source of food. When the predator's meat supply is low, they will begin to eat more fruits, roots, and some vegetables. Coyotes will eat juniper berries, pear apples and just about anything that will fit in their mouths. The other option that they have, which they frequently use, is to prey on the local livestock and other domestic animals. For farmers, this means a loss of both animals and money. Also, when predators come in contact with domestic animals they can spread disease to the domestic animals and lead to an outbreaks in the area (Jamison 8).

As America was the pioneer of many things, it was also the first to establish conservation laws protecting threatened and endangered species. The bald eagle, the first animal to be protected under such laws that many animals did not have the benefit of , was protected under the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940. That law would be the first of many such laws that would follow. Later in 1973, the Endangered Species Act was established to protect any species that was under the threat of extinction (Hoffman Bald Eagle 1 of 4).

Laws that protect endangered species are not the only thing needed to help an endangered species to come out of the threat of extinction and back to a thriving species. Programs such as captive breeding and reintroduction programs are needed to supplement the laws. These programs are used to boost the wild populations of endangered species. Captive breeding programs breed members of and endangered specie and release the offspring into the wild. These programs as have saved many animals from extinction. A recent graduate from the endangered species list is the peregrine falcon, was saved by these programs (Hoffman Peregrine Falcon 4 of 5).

As the human population is continually expanding, conservation is needed to help healthy populations and to control the spread of diseases from wild animals to domestic animals and humans and vice versa (Jamison 7). Everyday some species are being pushed more and more toward extinction by man. Although extinction may be considered as unremarkable as a car running out of gas, if many species die out at once, the results can be devastating.

Works Cited

Hoffman,Cindy; George Parham. "The Peregrine Falcon is Back". U.S
Fish and Wildlife Service. 20 August 1999.
Dogpile. [].
((27 January 2000))

Jamison, Rick. The Trapper's Handbook. Illinois: DBI Books, Inc. 1983