The total population of humans reached an estimated 7 billion people as of October 2011. The ever-increasing number of people has led to human-wildlife conflict around the globe and increasing problems for wild animals.
Animals rely on their habitats for survival. As the human population has grown, more land has been converted for agriculture, housing and profit. Huge areas have been destroyed, making habitat destruction the biggest threat to the world's species today.
CASE STUDY: PALM OIL THREAT TO ORANGUTANS
Orangutans are one of the most endangered apes in the world, only existing on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Indonesia. One of the biggest threats to orangutans is habitat loss. This has been happening for many years but is currently happening faster than ever, as valuable tropical forest is converted to palm oil plantations. Palm oil is one of the most commonly used vegetable oils in the world and can be found in 1 in 10 of our supermarket products, from ice cream to shampoo. Thousands of orangutans are left homeless or are killed in the fires used to clear land every year. Please take care when choosing your supermarket products.
CASE STUDY: BUSHMEAT TRADE THREAT
Local communities have eaten wild animals in small numbers for generations. The trade has now been commercialised with hunters stripping areas of forest of wildlife so that they can sell it on the legal or illegal markets. No animal escapes capture, from gazelle to chimpanzees. An estimated 1 million tonnes of bushmeat is being killed in Africa every year. In many areas the rarest animals, such as chimpanzees and bonobos, are considered a delicacy and are relentlessly pursued despite being protected. To find out more about bushmeat go to www.4apes.com/bushmeat.
As humans and domesticated animals move closer to wild animals, diseases can pass between them. An illness that may be relatively harmless to humans, like the common cold, can be fatal to wild animals.
CASE STUDY: EBOLA AND GORILLAS
It was known that the Ebola virus could pass between humans and gorillas and vice versa. However, it was only in the early years of the 21st century that it was discovered how much of an impact it was having on the gorilla population. Ebola has one of the highest death rates of any virus, causing vomiting and internal bleeding. In late 2001 there was an outbreak in Gabon and the first gorilla was discovered dead in 2002. Since then it has been estimated that this virus has killed more than 5000 western gorillas, an already endangered species. Twycross Zoo works closely with the Wildlife Information Network to make a positive impact on wildlife disease and treatment. To find out more go to the Wildlife Information Network.
There are many types of pollution: water, air, soil and litter are just a few. Unfortunately, pollution affects almost all habitats around the world. These effects can either be direct or indirect, for example by contributing to global warming. Global warming is changing habitats slowly but on a large scale. Direct pollution affects animals in many ways, from poisoning to becoming entangled in litter.
CASE STUDY: SEA LIONS AND PLASTIC BAGS
Litter causes huge problems for many animals, especially those that live in water, as it is easy for them to become entangled in it. Discarded plastic bags cause problems as, to many aquatic predator species, they look very similar to jellyfish when they are floating in the water. It has been documented that sea lions have eaten plastic bags by mistake. These plastic bags become tangled inside the animal and cause them to starve to death. You can do your bit to help by taking care over what you do with your litter and reducing, reusing and recycling as much as possible.