The world is a very complex place. Most humans have a hard enough time figuring out what is going on in their own lives, but the natural world is also complex. Animals have a variety of needs and depend on each other in ways that are difficult to understand. The natural world also interacts with the man-made world in various ways. This is why the issue of endangered species is a very difficult problem to solve.
Even determining the health of a population of animals is not a simple matter. According to the IUCN, factors such as human error, imprecise terms, and variation in nature are all factors that can create uncertainty in evaluating a species.
The term “critically endangered” is the most severe level before an endangered species becomes extinct in the wild. There are a number of different reasons that a species can be declared critically endangered. These can include factors such as population size, estimated future decrease of the population, and the size of the species’ home range.
How a decision is made about a certain species can be complex. For example, if a population has less than 250 adult individuals and is also expected to decrease by 25 percent in the next three years, that species can potentially be considered critically endangered. A population can also be considered critically endangered if it is estimated to have less than 50 adult individuals in the wild.
There are other traits that can cause a species to be labeled a critically endangered species, but the point is that there are numerous factors at work. Protecting endangered species is equally complex, when it is even possible.
Consider the problem of the tiger. In his book Tiger: Portrait of a Predator, Valmik Thapar suggested that one of the greatest threats to the tiger is domestic livestock. Cattle obviously require plenty of space for grazing. The tiger, being a large carnivore, also requires a lot of room. Also, killing livestock can be problematic for a tiger, but shrinking habitat makes that this possibility more likely.
The issue of space might be the biggest overall problem for the tiger. While the creature is elusive, in order to have an actual stable population, it must have a decent amount of space. It needs enough animals to hunt, as well room to find mates.
Yet what are the answers for a species like the tiger? The issue of endangered species is a difficult problem to deal with, because solutions could very well have an impact on humans. It is easy to say that populations are rising and animals are losing habitat, but what can actually be done about it?
Making laws is probably not the best way to go. For one thing, one must factor in how a law affects the people of the area, not just the animals. Also, activities such as poaching are still a huge problem, especially for animals like the tiger. It is questionable how much usefulness new laws will have when there is trouble enforcing existing laws.
Education might be the best way to help endangered species. Raising people’s awareness of problems and giving them an incentive to act voluntarily would be preferable to government action. If more people understand the issue that endangered species face, perhaps there will be a greater likelihood that they will change problematic actions voluntarily.
The issue of endangered species is a difficult problem to understand, let alone solve. There are many environmental and human factors at work. As social and economic problems increase and populations grow, some species will likely be in even more dire straits.
Editorial By Zach Kirkman
Tiger: Portrait of a Hunter by Valmik Thapar (print)