Protecting Natural Wildlife Habitats Around The Globe

Saturday, February 13, 2016: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Coolidge (Marriott Wardman Park)
Peyton West, Frankfurt Zoological Society - U.S., Washington, DC
Biodiversity provides essential benefits to humanity and it is also valuable in its own right, yet it is threatened more seriously now than at any time since the extinction of the dinosaurs. Most scientists believe that the current rate of species extinction is at least 1000 times the natural rate, and a 2014 report suggests that more than half of the world’s biodiversity has been lost since 1970. Causes of biodiversity loss range from overexploitation of natural resources to climate change, but perhaps the most important factor is habitat loss. According to the IUCN, this impacts 86% of threatened birds, 86% of threatened mammals and 88% of threatened amphibians. Protecting habitat is thus a critical aspect of preserving biodiversity. Recognizing this fact, many countries around the world have set aside land as Protected Areas, however protected status alone does not confer protection. Threats to the areas remain intense, including human population growth, livestock grazing, poaching, mining, and logging among others. Addressing these threats requires a multi-faceted approach involving not only resource monitoring and law enforcement but also educating and providing opportunities to local communities. Many of these communities are religious, yet currently little attention is paid to the role that religion might play in these efforts. The elephant poaching crisis in Africa is a threat to biodiversity in which religious leaders are beginning to play a role and where an intensified effort could have a major impact. This in turn could inspire a broader religious engagement in biodiversity conservation.