(Note: This is part 2B of the series Two Sides of Illegal Hunting which explores both sides of the issue of illegal hunting. Parts 1A and 1B introduce with reasons to explain why illegal hunting happens, and parts 2A and 2B will feature consequences and reasons against it. A third section, an informal reflection, will also be included. Links to the full series can he found here: http://naturenimbus.blogspot.ca/p/series-two-sides.html)
Loss To Biodiversity & Ecosystems
History has proven multiple times that the threat of extinction for species that are over-hunted is warranted; in conjunction with other environmental threats such as loss of habitat, humans have caused losses to our planet’s biodiversity. The dodo bird is a well-known animal that was brought to extinction because of overhunting by humans. Dodo birds’ lack of flight and fear made them vulnerable to human hunters, leading to their extinction in the mid-to-late 17th century, despite only being discovered in 1581 (Czartoryski, 2011). Without regulations set in place and abided by to limit the killing of birds, they were wiped out due to overhunting, leaving the details of their species lost in history. But even if regulations are set in place, if they are not followed dire consequences are bound to occur.
By extension illegal hunting also affects all other life in the ecosystem by extension and without limit, affecting other species whose survival depends on the other, or which is controlled by the other. Studies showed that the poaching of tropical birds and mammals for bushmeat “can cause zoochorous trees to suffer from reduced seed dispersal.... Recent and ongoing extirpations of vertebrates in many tropical forests could be creating an extinction debt for zoochorous trees whose vulnerability is belied by their current abundance.” (Brodie, 2009). Because of interdependency within an ecosystem, an effect on one population may also inadvertently affect other species.
As mentioned previously, tigers are becoming more rare due to poaching and habitat destruction. About a century ago there were about 100 000 tigers in the wild, but many have now there may be as few as 3 300, putting them at risk of extinction (World Wildlife Fund). Similarly, despite African elephants’ vulnerable state and protection by law, National Geographic’s Investigative report from 2012 showed that in 2011 poaching levels were the peak of the decade. That same year, in Central Africa more than half of all elephants found dead were illegally killed (Environmental Investigation Agency, Petitioner International Rhino Foundation, Petitioner, June 2014) and because of declining populations they are currently a vulnerable species and more and more of their lives are brought to an end by poachers to take their tusks, diminishing biodiversity (Blanc, J. et al. 2008). The range for African elephants already diminishes with an expanding human population, and with both habitat loss and hunting, the estimated population of African elephants went from 1.3 million elephants in 1979, to 472 000-690 000 in 2007. The slaughter of elephants for their tusks extends beyond Africa, also into different countries in Asia including China where 90 600 pounds of ivory was seized from 1989-2011, and the amount of seized ivory to measure killings only represent a portion of elephants slaughtered for their tusks. This loss of life also affects other parts of the ecosystem which elephants are a part of. As mentioned previously, Countless animals have been affected by unsustainable human activity, and not adhering to hunting regulations threatens the very existence of entire species.
Sources (for this part only)
Brodie, Jedediah. "Bushmeat poaching reduces the seed dispersal and population growth rate of a mammal-dispersed tree.." National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19544729>.
Czartoryski, Alex . "Hunter Safety Blog | HunterCourse.com." 10 Animals Hunted (or Nearly Hunted) To Extinction Â«. N.p., 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 23 May 2014.
Blanc, J.J.; Barnes, R.F.W.; Craig, G.C.; Dublin, H.T.; Thouless, C.R., Douglas-Hamilton, I.; Hart, J.A.. African Elephant Status Report 2007.
Environmental Investigation Agency, Petitioner International Rhino Foundation, Petitioner, Petition to Certify Mozambique as Diminishing the Effectiveness of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). (June 2014).