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Friday April 19, 2024

It’s their home too

Environmental threat that most concerns our species is also highlighted as both a direct threat and an amplifier of other threats like pollution and invasive species

By Editorial Board
February 19, 2024
Steam rises from the cooling towers of the power station on November 28, 2023. — AFP
Steam rises from the cooling towers of the power station on November 28, 2023. — AFP

The ongoing decade has arguably brought home the fact that the greatest threat faced by humanity is its own seemingly insatiable appetite for more, of everything, regardless of the consequences it has on other humans and the planet on which we all live. As the environment is pushed to ever more unprecedented extremes, an unrelenting wave of natural disasters has been unleashed across the globe. With most serious and informed leaders, which means many are not included, now belatedly scrambling to save mankind from itself, which is proving to be harder than it should be, it is easy to forget that those most immediately threatened by human excesses are all the non-human lives on Earth.

The first-ever UN report on migratory species has revealed that over 20 per cent of the migratory species under international protection are now threatened with extinction while around 44 per cent are experiencing population declines. This includes an alarming 97 per cent of migratory fish, with an estimated 58 per cent of locations crucial for migratory species under unsustainable human pressure. Some of the world’s most iconic animals fall under the banner of migratory species including gorillas, turtles, wild camels and even lions. The loss of these and other natural treasures is almost too bleak and depressing to articulate. Many of these animals have been around just as long as us, if not longer, and form a key part of many of our cultures and traditions. Losing them would be akin to losing a piece of ourselves, creating holes that can never be filled.

The report cites overexploitation due to hunting and fishing (both targeted and incidental) and habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation as the greatest threats to migratory species. Climate change, the environmental threat that most concerns our species, is also highlighted as both a direct threat and an amplifier of other threats like pollution and invasive species, with changing temperatures disrupting migration patterns. While reducing pollution, emissions and destruction of natural habitats are all key to addressing these threats, the unique mobility needs of migratory species also call for some more specific solutions. It is not enough to establish well-protected natural enclaves to sustain their populations. Any such enclaves need to be well connected to other protected areas to allow migratory species to move freely. This means establishing protected natural corridors and locating key infrastructure like roads and railways either away from such corridors or building them in a way that does not disrupt the corridors. For example, a highway can have forested overpasses to allow migratory animals to cross it safely and shipping lanes could be altered to better accommodate the migration patterns of marine fauna. In short, we must make real and visible the fact that this planet does not belong to us alone. This is an inherently transnational objective that will require cross-border cooperation to maintain and connect protected areas while also pushing our ingenuity and changing our role from nature’s exploiters and extractors to its stewards and protectors.