Orangutan
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Should we abandon half of the Earth to the wilderness?

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According to a recent report, the number of wild animals on Earth has halved over the past 40 years. The sixth mass extinction of species is now underway. Not since the end of the dinosaurs have so many animal species disappeared from the Earth. The causes of this situation are well known: human depredation, species habitat destruction, overpopulation, resource depletion, urban sprawl and climate change.
Voices are being raised to abandon part of our planet to wildlife. An international meeting of scientists will take place in London on 27 and 28 February to decipher the ins and outs of such a proposal.
 
L’orangutan is one of the most intelligent creatures on our planet. It uses tools to flush out its food, it is capable of complex social behaviour. Some of its congeners have even played a major role in the intellectual history of mankind. Indeed, they inspired Darwin when he wrote his theory of evolution. But these animals to whom we should pay tribute are on the road to inevitable extinction. Half of them have been extinct since 1995.
 
Last week, a study International research has revealed that its population in Borneo, the last main stronghold of the animal, is now between 70,000 and 100,000, less than half of what it was in 1995. "I expected to see a fairly marked decline, but I didn't expect it to be as significant... "said one of the study's co-authors, Serge Wich of Liverpool's John Moores University. Just to add another layer, if need be, environmentalists say the numbers are expected to fall by at least 45,000 more by 2050, as oil palm plantations expand and replace their logging homes. One of the Earth's most spectacular creatures is headed for oblivion, along with the Vaquita dolphin, Javan rhino, western lowland gorilla, Amur leopard and many other species whose numbers are now in dramatic decline. As is the fate of the Tasmanian tiger, the dodo, the ivory-billed woodpecker and the Baiji dolphin, all victims of the urge to kill, exploit and farm.
 

Disclaimer

Scientists therefore warn us that if this continues, soon the human species will find itself alone on Earth, with its few pets and parasites. The planet will simply be devoid of wildlife. This apocalyptic picture is the backdrop for the conference in London on February 27 and 28: Saving space for nature and securing our future.
The objective of the symposium is simple: to define the means necessary to create enough reserves and protected areas to stop or seriously limit the major extinction event facing humanity today. For scientists, this is a matter of urgency.
 
This is not a new issue. Already in 2010, a major international conference was held in Japan. The governments participating in that conference agreed to establish a network of reserves and protected seas that, by 2020, would cover 17 % of the Earth's land surface and 10 % of our oceans. "With more than two years to go, we now have approximately 15% of protected lands and 7% of oceans. said Mike Hoffman of the Zoological Society of London, at the Guardianone of the organizers of the London conference.
 
New reserves created as a result of the conference include the Termit Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve in Niger, which is home to the critically endangered Addax antelope and Dama gazelle, as well as the Yaguas National Park in Peru, which is known for its manatees, river dolphins, giant otters and woolly monkey.
A few days before the opening of the London Conference, Mike Hoffman clarifies the framework of the work: "The London Conference will be held in London in September. The conference will assess the extent to which these new reserves have contributed to conservation, examine the problems encountered in their establishment and explore ways to make further improvements to ensure that we meet our target of 17% of land and 10% of ocean protection by the next major biodiversity conference in China in 2020. ".
 

Re-wilding half the planet

Things seem to be moving in the right direction, but many environmentalists feel that these measures are still insufficient. Indeed, in their view, even if the objectives are achieved, they will not stop the extinction of species on the planet. Today, they say, international agreements are about negotiating which species we need to protect when a much more ambitious approach is needed to save at least 50 % of wildlife by 2050.
 
This idea of rewilding half the planet is not new. It was initiated by the famous Harvard biologist, E.O. Wilson in his most recent book: Half Earth. The famous biologist and naturalist suggests for this purpose to set up large biodiversity parks and to preserve and reorganize the habitat by linking local populations at the continental level. The inhabitants of these gigantic reserves would work there as environmental educators, managers or forest rangers. This model is inspired by large-scale conservation projects such as those already existing in northwestern Costa Rica with the Guanacaste Conservation Area (CAG).

READ IN UP' : Re-wilding half the Earth: the ethical dimension of a spectacular project

It is interesting to note that the idea of rewilding emerged in North America in the 1990s, at the heart of desert discussions among proponents of deep ecology. Several groups within this movement have continued to develop this idea, in particular the Wildlands Networkthe Rewilding Institute and the Wild Foundation. These movements propose to combine conservation science, education, and policy initiatives to promote continental-scale habitat protection and restoration and ecological corridors that ensure the preservation of North American wildlife. One example is the initiative that proposes to link the Yellowstone and Yukon ecosystems along the Rocky Mountains.
 

The problematic coexistence between man and wildlife

This idea of establishing integrated models of wildlife reserves is based on the need, according to some pro-conservation organizations, to allow animals to move relatively easily from one reserve to another and thus maintain genetic diversity between populations.
A beautiful idea but one that comes up against many difficulties. One of them is that animals have no penchant for respecting borders. They leave their protected areas without applying for a residence permit and come into conflict with local human populations.
This problem is best illustrated by the wolf, whose numbers have begun to grow in Europe thanks to the efforts of conservationists. But every week, there are reports of the anger of a shepherd who saw his flock being devoured in the night.
 
Other sensitive issues are on the agenda of the London conference, particularly those concerning Africa. The continent is still quite rich in wildlife, but it is expected to change much more radically than any other part of the world as humanity continues to grow throughout this century. According to the most recent UN figures, there are about 7.5 billion men, women and children living on our planet, and this figure is expected to rise to about 11.2 billion by the end of the century - with virtually all of this increase concentrated in Africa. The continent's population is expected to grow from 1.25 billion people today to about 4.25 billion in 2100.
The impact will be striking and will be felt as climate change impacts the continent's ecosystems, leading to considerable international friction. Will Africans accept that the international community will tell them where and when they should establish reserves and force them to stop logging or farming? Given the distress they will find themselves in, the fate of wildlife is unlikely to become their main concern.
 
 
Source: The Guardian
 

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Jean-François Toussaint
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