Wildlife conservationists are battling alarming trends both in Britain and abroad to protect the future of endangered species. Already in 2010 there have been a number of important scientific press releases regarding the future of our animals and their habitats.
Tigers in the Wild
Like pandas and whales, the tiger has frequently been the poster child for wildlife conservation. This year, a report has emerged from China that their numbers in the wild could be as low as fifty.
China Country Program Director and spokesperson for the Wildlife Conservation Society, Xie Yan, described the situation as “depressing”. In surveys of the Chinese countryside they are now able to count provincial tiger populations in just double digits, with only fifteen animals spotted in the whole of Tibet, and ten in Yunnan. Furthermore, it is thought that these tigers are too isolated from other tiger populations for their numbers to recover.
Numbers are better in the northeast, however, where wild tigers are able to interact with others from Russia and wildlife conservation schemes have had some success. There is also less human interference with their habitat in this region.
Looking at a wider picture, the Asian population has fallen from approximately 100,000 to 3,500 in the last hundred years. Medicinal traditions and a market for tiger pelts and trophies have meant that tigers have been brought to the brink of extinction by hunting.
Galapagos Sea Lions
Wildlife conservationists at the Organisation for Research and Conservation of Aquatic Animals have reported an alarming exodus from the Galapagos Islands. The ORCAA scientists who monitor the waters around Peru have noticed an entire colony of Galapagos sea lions have moved their territory to the coast of northern Peru, some 900 miles away.
This species is one of many on the Galapagos that can’t be found elsewhere in the world, so this revelation is an important issue for wildlife conservation, which could indicate the start of a worrying trend of animals leaving their natural habitats.
There is concern that the colony’s abandonment of the Galapagos may not only upset the ecosystem of the archipelago, but could destabilise the ecological balance around Peru as well.
Over the last decade the sea temperature has risen in this region by an average of 6 degrees centigrade, matching the conditions around Galapagos. ORCAA scientists have suggested this may have attracted the sea lions to the area.
Our native red squirrels have been struggling in recent decades. They are such an iconic animal for our British countryside and heritage, so it is good to hear that there are now a number of governmental and scientific bodies looking into the problem. In February 2010, a Squirrel Conservation Plan was announced in Wales.
The numbers of red squirrels have dwindled owing to the invasion of grey and black squirrel species, disease, and some narrowing of their habitat – an issue that affects a variety of British wildlife. Conservation groups like the Wales Squirrel Forum are keen to get the new protection project up and running.
The plan will include surveying and monitoring populations, setting up databases, and investigating influence of climate change. This is a welcome initiative for the many wildlife conservationists already working to preserve the species for the future. Even DNA research has been used to identify regional distinctions between the pockets of red squirrels remaining in our British countryside.