In 2011 the worldwide population reached 7 billion people, this ever-increasing number of people has led to human-wildlife conflict around the globe and increasing problems for wild animals.
Climate change is one of the greatest environmental issues of our time. Many factors are contributing to climate change, from fossil fuel use to the burning of tropical forests for farming. We are already seeing changing weather patterns impacting on food production, species migration and an increase in freak weather events.
CASE STUDY: REDUCING SEA AND POLAR BEARS
Due to elevated sea temperatures sea ice is now melting earlier and forming later each year. The sea ice is key to polar bear survival, as it's during this time that they hunt the most and fatten up ready for the winter. With less ice comes less chances to hunt and recently polar bears have been recorded swimming for 9 days trying to find a suitable place to haul out. Unless something to done to reduce the impact of global warming then the stresses on polar bears will only greaten until the point that they cannot cope.
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. In 2006 over 50% (6 million hectares) of the world's oil palm plantations were in IndonesiaPalm oil is now found in over 1 in 10 household projects, from biscuits to shampoo and even Biodiesel. Thousands of orangutans are left homeless or are killed in the fires used to clear land every year.
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. Bushmeat has also resulted in the spread of diseases between human and animal populations. Twycross Zoo has funded an Awely project based in the Democratic Republic of Congo for a number of year which is tackling the trade of bonobos as 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.