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Attempts to Maintain Habitats and Indigenous Wildlife.

There are several ways in which countries attempt to maintain their habitats and indigenous wildlife.

These include:

1. National Parks, Game Reserves and Nature Reserves

Basically, all parks and reserves are wild areas which are designated as protected habitat. However, each one differs in the description of its purpose and function.

The national parks established before World War II generally followed the American ideal of a wild, natural landscape of great scenic beauty e.g. the Yellowstone National Park, founded 1872. The national parks of Africa are amongst the finest wildlife regions left in the world. They were created as sanctuaries for the huge variety of large game animals which live there e.g. Serengeti National Park (5400 square miles)

The name 'Nature Reserve' is widely misused. It ranges from the strict sanctuary to those whose function is more for public recreation. Probably the best publicised are those created to protect rare or interesting animals in their habitats. A nature reserve is usually a smaller unit of land and therefore has a more specialised role than the National Park. Its purpose may be to preserve a particular type of vegetation e.g. bog or marsh, the breeding haunts of interesting birds or the localities of rare plants. A more directly scientific role of nature reserves is the preservation of variety. To allow extinction is bad management. The protection of wildlife is a sensible investment for the future.

An African game reserve differs from a national park in that natives and their domestic stock are allowed to use the area, whereas they are normally excluded from a national park. This has brought problems of overgrazing in some parts, but naturally the semi-nomadic indigenous tribes such as the Masai resent being kept away from land they regard as their heritage. Regulating the use of grazing lands so that there is no competition between domestic and wild stock is a formidable problem.

Another problem is regulating the intrusion by tourists; animals and plants are easily disturbed and erosion may occur, brought about by the trampling of feet. Again, a balance must be maintained, since tourists bring much needed cash into the country concerned.

The African parks and reserves have been suffering increasingly from an overwhelming threat from poaching, particularly of their rhino and elephant populations. An effective patrol force would help considerably, as would stricter legislation on the export of wildlife products and a universal lack of public demand. However, in many cases, there is not enough money to fund patrol forces, and there are still people who will buy wildlife products.

2. Wildlife and Hunting

If there was no other form of conservation apart from the designation of parks and reserves then many of our familiar animals and plants would rapidly disappear. Hunting and forest reserves make a significant contribution to the total conservation effort in many countries. The object of these reserves often seems to be contrary to the interests of wildlife, but in fact they are a safe haven for many wild animals. The huntsman attempts to eliminate certain predatory animals which compete with him and this appears to conflict with conservation principles. However, a lot of wildlife benefits from the safe haven offered by land set aside for hunting, and game animals often live better (if abruptly ended) lives, being regularly fed and having little to fear from predators.

Whatever one's opinion may be of 'blood sports', it cannot be denied that if it were not for the interest in fox-hunting in Britain, the red fox may well have been persecuted into extinction by now, going the same way as the wolf did in the 18th Century.

3. Managing the Ecosystem

Over the centuries, humans have waged war against those birds, mammals and insects which have threatened their crops and domestic stock. It wasn't until late in agricultural history that it was realised that proper studies of the biology of pest species were necessary before they could be controlled effectively. The intricacies of the delicate Food Web are not always taken into account. In many cases the problems which sometimes follow the destruction of predators have been complicated and unpredictable. In areas where no natural predators are present, selective culling may have to be introduced in order to maintain a balance with the food supply and a healthy stock.

The management of habitat land reserves which have been modified by human's activities requires three types of information:

i) a knowledge of past land use.

ii) a knowledge of the ecological relationship between all the living organisms present.

iii) a knowledge of how to use all the information against the reserve's historical background in order to devise practical methods of maintaining the scientific interests. This is an interesting aspect of conservation because it accepts humans as other animals in the environment, integrating their activities with other species.

However, although people have managed to live harmoniously with their environment in the past, circumstances today have changed. Technology and science have given humans such power to exploit natural resources that they have, unfortunately, tried to rule nature rather than work with it and consequently created waste and dereliction all around them.

Read More: The Future

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