Posts Tagged With: ecosystems

50 million years on Earth….Disappearing in 6?!

If the current rate of poaching continues, rhinos in the wild will be extinct by 2020. That is just 6 years away!

black and white rhinos by ryan hillier

There are only 5,000 black rhinos (L) and 20,000 white rhinos (R) remaining in the wild. (photo by Ryan Hillier)

According to Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation,

“There will probably be no free-living rhinos as the remaining numbers will be fenced off in military-style compounds which are alarmed and heavily guarded by armed patrols.”

Are we prepared to let this happen? How will the world look without them?

The Savanna 

Rhinos are an umbrella species. This means their survival or demise directly impacts the survival or demise of other species of rhino in tall grass by chiu pangmammals, birds, insects, fish and plants. They play a big role in their ecosystem.

When they browse, they keep the areas trimmed, making paths and more accessible areas for smaller mammals. They also enrich the soil and help plants by spreading seed through their dung.

In fact according to an article in Smithsonian.com, rhino-inhabited areas had about 20 times more grazing lawns (or patches of prime eating grass) than areas without rhinos. This effects not just rhino’s diet, but smaller grazing animals such as zebra, gazelle, and antelope.

Without rhinos to diversify the plant life and help create grazing spots, the African savanna may become a much emptier place, devastating more than just the rhinos.

The Economy

Many parts of Africa rely heavily on the tourism business. Probably the biggest incentive for safaris is the “Big Five” (the elephant, rhino, lion, cape buffalo and leopard) With four of the five endangered or on their way to endangered status, tourism is absolutely threatened.

Without rhinos, there is no tourism and no tour guides, drivers, lodge employees, restaurant employees, or souvenir shop employees. South Africa and Kenya are arguably two of the biggest benefactors of tourism via safaris. With existing unemployment rates of 24% (SA) and 40% (K), there is no room for lessening job opportunities.

rhino safari (africa excl safari)

photo by africa exclusive safari

Global Responsibility

It may be cliché, but it is absolute truth-we have one planet. We are guardians of this planet; the only ones who are capable of devastating and destroying it, and likewise the only ones who can right this.

Rhinos are one of the 16,306 endangered species in the world. They have all come to this point from the recklessness of humans through habitat loss, hunting, and pollution. This can be brought to a halt through education and awareness, and stricter laws for violators.

BUT we must ask ourselves-do we REALLY want to save the planet? Do we have the will to work together-ignoring borders, setting aside self-importance and ultimately having respect, not just for each other, but for ALL  species? If enough of us can do this, we don’t have to wonder what will happen without rhinos. And we may just find our own dignity and humanity along the way.

help me

 

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Circle of Life

baobab cartoonThe Baobab Tree isn’t called the “Tree of Life” for nothing. The giant African trees can store hundreds of liters of water, which can be tapped in the dry periods. The fruit or “monkey bread” is high in vitamin C, and the leaves are used for medicine. Even the cork-like bark, which is fire-resistant, is used for making cloth and rope.

The enormous Baobab is one of the longest living trees in Africa. Most of the mature trees are hollow and provide living space for humans and animals. In fact one such tree which was made into a pub is said to have been carbon dated at over 6,000 years old!

Ready for the catch? The Tree of Life is not doing well. In fact, its one of the top ten endangered trees on the planet.  Why?  Climate change and the natural regeneration of Baobab has been badly affected.

This is where the elephants come in. Elephants only digest 40% of the vegetation they eat. The 60% of undigested (the dung) generates new plant growth as it is deposited. With humans destroying elephant habitat AND poaching the pachyderms for their tusks, the population has dwindled and they too are endangered.

Up to 30% of the tree species may require the elephants to help with dispersal and germination. Also, during migration they use the same paths, keeping habitats open so other species can use them. They bring down vegetation as they traverse, making it more accessible to the smaller species to feed. In the process, they also inadvertently create trails that humans use.

Daphne Sheldrick (of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust) has observed that many forms of life depend on the activity of the elephants. They are a keystone species  (a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance) to Africa.

So destroy the elephants, take with them the Baobab, as well as bushbabies, squirrels, rodents, snakes, tree frogs, scorpions, rollers, hornbills, parrots, kestrels, spinetails, barn owls, eagles, buffalo weavers, baboons and fruit bats. Not to mention the supplies of water and fruit to the people living on the savannah.

For more information on Daphne Sheldrick’s observations see IMPACT IN TSAVO.

african elephants

 

Categories: Rhino Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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