The Leopard

Rewilding Carnivores

Gulo gulo Wikipédia (http://seafoodnet.info/?k=Gulo+gulo++Wikip%C3%A9dia)

Gulo gulo Wikipédia (http://seafoodnet.info/?k=Gulo+gulo++Wikip%C3%A9dia)

Casey Hansen, Hard News Writer

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In 1926, Yellowstone’s wolf population downsized by hundreds due to excessive hunting. Over the many years of hardly any wolf activity, Yellowstone had a drastic change in its environment. As a result of having no wolves to help regulate the elk and deer population, the number of these large herbivores skyrocketed from a few thousand to almost 50 thousand. Since there was no control to the population of large animals, local plant populations declined to almost nothing, causing rivers to become muddy due to lack of filter.  Along with elk and deer, without wolves, coyote population increased, which then reduced the population of rabbits and rodents. When rabbits and rats are absent from the environment, the population of plants that the deer and elk dont eat increases and destroys the already existing flora. This continued to happen until 1995 when wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone. This allowed the environment and populations to return back to its original state. Having the wolf population shrink, turned one of our most famous national parks into an abandoned wasteland. By extracting one species from an environment, it set off a chain reaction, negatively impacting the entire ecosystem. There are similar cases happening all over the world with other carnivores like lions, tigers, and bears. These animals are struggling to survive and people all over the world are doing what the can to fix it.

 

William Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State University, is trying to help carnivores recover from population decline and loss of habitat of habitat carnivores. This is know as rewilding.“We’re just uncovering these effects of large carnivores,” Ripple said, “at the same time, their populations are declining and are at risk.” Ripple has found that rewilding some carnivores and letting their population grow, has had the same effects as it did in Yellowstone. However, not every reintroduction has had a thriving outcome, which makes getting carnivores successfully reintroduced the first time extremely important.

 

Lions, tigers, bears, along with gray wolves, and 21 other species of large, terrestrial carnivores call Earth their home. With extinction and declining populations threatening all of these animals, scientists and conservationists like Ripple, have attempted to rewild a few of them and help their population grow. Scientists hope that in doing so, each ecosystem will have the same ecological benefits similar to Yellowstone.

 

Christopher Wolf, a postdoctoral researcher, and Dr. Ripple analyzed hundreds of potential rewilding locations from a database of protected areas around the world where large carnivores are struggling or disappeared altogether. They started by focusing on large areas  where animals can traverse safely, with little human activity, and easy access to prey . Their initial analysis revealed 130 possible sites for rewilding large carnivores. They published their results on Wednesday March 16, 2018 in Royal Society Open Science Article. which suggests that with proper attention and care, we can ensure that the animals that they have rewilded and any future rewilding programs, will be a success.  

 

Though, it will be as simple as finding a needle in a haystack.

 

Their paper mentions two specific reintroduction sites where rewilding will likely work as expected. They plan to put already captured gray wolves in Olympic National Park located in Washington while they send the endangered red wolves to Everglades National Park in Florida. However, many locations, especially in developing countries, have people who still hunt some animals for survival use or trophies. This causes problems for the carnivores considering humans compete for prey or kill the carnivores that threaten their livestock.  The biggest hurdle to conquer is finding people who are willing to live alongside these animals and support the efforts that others are making to protect the large carnivores. “Perhaps the solution is rethinking what it means to be human in a natural world,” states Layla AbdelRahim, an anthropologist who has studied human understanding of the environment. “We must recognize our role as partners with the environment, rather than dominators, to maintain functioning ecosystems.”

 

With Large Carnivorous animals being rewilded, and all the benefits the rewilding program offers, rewilding will be a significant trend in preserving ecosystems where large carnivorous animals matter. Humans are just trying figuring out what the nature is all about and how each aspect of our environment is crucial to its, and our, survival.

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