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  Exploitation bigger threat to wildlife than climate: Study

Exploitation bigger threat to wildlife than climate: Study

AFP
Published : Aug 12, 2016, 2:16 am IST
Updated : Aug 12, 2016, 2:16 am IST

The main driver of wildlife extinction is not climate change but humanity’s rapacious harvesting of species for food and trophies, along with our ever-expanding agricultural footprint, said researcher

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The main driver of wildlife extinction is not climate change but humanity’s rapacious harvesting of species for food and trophies, along with our ever-expanding agricultural footprint, said researchers pleading for a reset of conservation priorities.

In an analysis of nearly 9,000 ‘threatened’ or ‘near-threatened’ species, scientists found that three-quarters are being over-exploited for commerce, recreation or subsistence.

Demand for meat and body parts, for example, have driven the Western gorilla and Chinese pangolin to near extinction, and pushed the Sumatran rhinoceros — prized in China for bogus medicines made from its horn — over the edge.

And more than half of the 8,688 species of animals and plants evaluated are suffering due to the conversion of their natural habitats into industrial farms and plantations, mainly to raise livestock and grow commodity crops for fuel or food.

By comparison, only 19 per cent of these species are currently affected by climate change, they reported in a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

Conservation budgets, the researchers argued, must reflect this reality.

“Addressing the old foes of overharvesting and agricultural activities are key to turning around the biodiversity extinction crisis,” said lead author Sean Maxwell, a professor at the University of Queensland in Australia.

These threats, rather than climate change, “must be at the forefront of the conservation agenda,” he said in a statement.

A group of 43 top conservation experts, meanwhile, issued a public appeal recently to save the world’s dwindling terrestrial megafauna, from big cats to elephants to giant apes.

The provocative appeal in Nature — which elicited sharp reactions — comes a month before a crucial meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a policy-oriented umbrella grouping of governments, industry and NGOs that meets every three or four years.

Climate change has overshadowed more traditional conservation priorities over the last decade, siphoning limited resources away from more urgent needs, the authors argued.

“Unless we tackle these problems now, many species may disappear by the time the full impacts of climate change really kicks in,” said co-author James Watson. Earth, he pointed out, has now entered a “mass extinction event” in which species are disappearing 1,000 to 10,000 times more quickly than a century or two ago.

Location: France, Île-de-France, Paris