We have lost a staggering 50 per cent of the world’s wildlife over the past 40 years. If this rate of decline continues, the majority of the Earth’s most iconic creatures could disappear completely within our lifetimes.
International conservation charity, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is working to ensure that this alarming scenario never comes to pass. Through their global conservation work, pioneering scientific research and world class zoos, they’re striving to reverse these dramatic declines and safeguard our planet for future generations. It’s impossible to imagine a world without wildlife. We spoke to experts at ZSL who are committed to making sure you don’t have to.
A world without insects is unthinkable. The ecosystem services these creatures provide are fundamental to the survival of the rest of the animal kingdom as we know it. Bees and wasps are vital for the pollination of plants, particularly those that humans rely on, such as fruits, nuts, cotton and hay for livestock, and the recycling of nutrients into the soil by insects such as dung beetles cannot be overlooked. Insects also play an integral role in the food chain, as they provide key sustenance for other animals. But we must also remember that insects themselves have intrinsic worth, enriching our lives through their fascinating forms and beauty. Could we live without this?
Dave Clarke, team leader of BUGS at ZSL
Imagine springtime without bird song. Wild birds are part of our daily lives, culture and history. Imagine a world without them. The natural world would be very different – many plants rely on birds to disperse their seeds, and as top predators, birds regulate the populations of their prey. Imagine being knee deep in spiders! Sadly, in some cases we don’t have to imagine – the island of Guam in the Pacific has no birds; they were eaten by introduced snakes. But there is still hope for such areas. Bird populations on Mauritius are recovering after years of conservation work. Let’s make Guam the exception rather than the rule!
Professor Ken Norris, director of science at ZSL
Without big cats….
From the tiger’s stripes and the cheetah’s spots, to the unique spotted rosettes of the jaguar, the iconic patterns of big cats are almost instinctively recognisable to adult and child alike.
From cuddly toys as children, poetry through the ages, art on ancient rocks and modern canvas, to Christopher Robin’s Tigger, Shere Khan and the Lion King, these majestic creatures touch our lives in so many ways. They are icons entwined in our lifestyles and cultures across the globe, part of our shared history and existence. A world without big wild cats would be a world starved of a thread of its history, its culture and its spirit. If we cannot save these icons from extinction, if we cannot muster the will to do this for them, then what can we save?
Craig Bruce, head of Asia Conservation Programmes at ZSL
No white sandy beaches to lay on, no dazzling fish, no protection from waves and less food to eat. If coral disappeared, we would lose a giant chunk of Earth’s biodiversity. We would lose over 2,500 species of coral animals that build reefs, plus the thousands of other species that call them home; from the vibrant fish that rely on them for food and shelter, to the thousands of crabs, shrimp, starfish and urchins that need reefs to survive. Our reefs would dissolve in an empty sea, taking away the coastline’s protection and eliminating the world’s most beautiful beaches forever. ZSL is working around the world to help communities protect their coral reefs from destruction and create Marine Protected Areas where reef ecosystems have the best chance for survival.
Brian Zimmerman, curator of ZSL’s Aquarium
Without amphibians, the forest at night would lack a cacophony of excited calls. We would have more agricultural pests, predators would go hungry, streams and ponds would clog up with algae, and we would lack the important pharmaceuticals that have been developed from amphibian skin secretions. Unfortunately, despite their importance, amphibians remain underrated by many – in some environments, they can even be as abundant as mammals and play a key role in the transfer of nutrients from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems. ZSL is committed to improving the conservation status of Critically Endangered amphibians to safeguard these animals for the future.
Ben Tapley, team leader of herpetology at ZSL
Support ZSL by texting ZSLWILDLIFE to 70300 to donate £3 or find out other ways you can help by visiting zsl.org/withwildlife
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