The diversity and importance of animal species across the world cannot be overstated. Playing a vital role in nature’s food chain, animals are an intrinsic link to the health and well being of global ecosystems. Furthermore, human society is highly dependent on the use of animal life. Our infrastructure is based on numerous natural resources, and animals make up the backbone of it, often literally.
Therefore, the preservation and conservation of animal diversity is exceptionally important. Even the slightest loss in balance can cause cascading effects across global biomes. For example, a loss of predators in one area causes surplus herbivore populations, which in turn, overeat flora and reduce the available food for other animals and insects. The damaging environmental impact can see the rapid decline of specific animal species.
For our infrastructure and society, we rely on animals for food, medicine, clothing, companionship, and even personal care products. Even if one disregards the well-being and happiness of animal life, from a practical standpoint, the need to conserve and protect wildlife is important on a structural level.
This article reviews the importance of wildlife conservation, and explores the history of wildlife conservation through the years. Start reading, or jump to our Key Takeaways below.
Importance of Conservation and Threats to Wildlife
For the stated reasons, conserving the natural health of wildlife and animals on a global scale is extremely important to maintain the balance of environments. Take another example, where bats are necessary pollinators in regions of the world. Pollination is required for plans to continue growing and in many cases, produce food. Conservation is also necessary to guard against mass exploitation and biome loss.
But like any natural resource, there are various threats facing the stability of wildlife. Deforestation, pollution, and biome loss are a handful of human-caused dangers resulting in species loss of wildlife. Ironically, dedicated land for meat production is also harmful to wildlife, since it causes widespread environmental loss.
Wildlife threats are not only land based, either. The ocean body sees constant attritional loss and damage caused by human pollution and overfishing. Combined with other environmentally damaging effects like climate change, this can create a mass-extinction domino effect with deadly consequences.
History of Wildlife Conservation Efforts
The goal of wildlife conservation is to protect the stability and survival of animal species. In other cases, it’s to establish a balance between use vs. loss, typically with meat production. Unrestricted killing, hunting, and exploitation of animals has led to either extinction or near-total loss of life. The rabid buffalo hunting of the American expansion saw the death of their species, for instance.
During this expansion, some recognized the immense harm and long term consequences of ecosystem loss and animal extinction in the United States. Therefore, the first conservation efforts in the US started with the establishment and recognition of wildlife parks.
Wildlife management and conservation in the US started with the creation of the U.S. Commission on Fish and Fisheries in 1871. In the following year, 1872, the Yellowstone National Park was established which acts as a massive refuge for various types of wildlife and resources.
Aldo Leopold and Early Conservationist Philosophies
In the US, Aldo Leopold is arguably the central figure defining the relationship between wildlife management and use. Leopold was a conservationist advocate from Wisconsin, and his work helped shape the philosophical and practical relationship between humans and wildlife use. Aldo was part of the Arizona U.S. Forest Service, where he developed his views on the environment.
In 1933, he published “Game Management,” an authoritative piece creating the foundations for environmental protection, use, and restoration.
In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt created the Committee of Wildlife Restoration. Aldo and Jay Darling created a recommendation for protected environments to help shield bird populations and wildlife from habitation loss.
Read more about Aldo Loepold’s philosophies: What Is Ecocentrism?
US Law and Important Management Resolutions
Conservation laws and legislative movements in the United States initially started in the late 1800s. Since then, multiple acts and laws have passed to help establish refuges, monuments, and parks to protect animal wildlife.
1956 – The Fish and Wildlife Act is passed by Congress. It allowed the Secretary of Interior to make decisions for the preservation and protection of wildlife resources and fisheries across the United States.
1964 – The Land and Water Act is signed by President Lyndon Johnson. This created the National Wilderness Preservation System, which, since then, has created over 100 million acres of federally protected land.
1973 – President Nixon and Congress create and sign the Endangered Species Act, aimed to protect and repopulate animal species in danger of extinction.
The mentioned actions are only a handful of legislative movements designed to conserve, protect, and restore animal life. However, as with any conservation effort, species and wildlife diversity continuously face dangers and habitat loss.
Global Conservation and Wildlife Management Movements
Wildlife and animal conservation is not only based in the US. As a global issue, the continued loss of environments and threats to animal survivability means rescues, parks, and protection organizations are found throughout the world.
For example, WWF, the World Wildlife Foundation, is a popular leader for conservation education, protection, and action. International efforts like these help highlight not only the dangers facing wildlife, the action organizations can take to create effective movements for animal conservation.
In 2021 alone, 23 animal species went extinct, representing the dire need to escalate global animal conservation movements.
Protecting Wildlife: What Can You Do?
What can you do to help protect and conserve wildlife? There are plenty of ways, and not all require serious legislative movements on your sole behalf. For widespread change, government intervention and the creation of regulatory programs and preserves are necessary. But not everyone has to take bold action. Protecting and conserving wildlife is something we can all do in our own way.
Key points of this are:
- Understand the threats to wildlife and natural resources (consumption, exploitation, habitation loss)
- Learn how the loss of animal diversity can cause damaging, widespread effects to other species
- Identify what processes in our consumption chain cause direct or indirect harm to wildlife (such as meat consumption leading to deforestation, harming biomes and wildlife)
Here’s what you need to know about the history of wildlife management:
- Though important, emphasis on wildlife management and conservation didn’t see major legislative movement in the United States until the late 1800s.
- Despite the establishment of national parks and lands for protection, hazards and threats to wildlife are constant. From excessive consumption of natural resources and unchecked destruction of biomes, animals consistently face extinction level threats.
- Like other paths to natural resource conservation, serious efforts must be made to seek alternative resources, better regulate the balance of use and repopulation, and maintain hard regulatory stances on human land development.