Mammals constitute an important section of global wildlife and biodiversity; and are distributed across all the continents and oceans. However, the situation of the mammals across the globe is not at all promising; and in some cases agonizingly morbid!
A large number of mammalian species and sub species are being threatened, endangered, critically endangered and some have even been pushed towards virtual extinction. The most prominent and well known mammals around the world are different species and sub species of majestic wildcats (such as lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopards, Sunda clouded leopard, pumas, jaguars, fishing cats, wild cats, golden cats, Andean cats, caracal, Leopard cats to mention only a handful).
Several species and sub species of ursids (giant panda, polar bears, grizzlies, sloth bear, brown and black bears), canids (wolves, wild dogs, coyotes, foxes and jackals), elephants, rhinoceros, ungulates (deer and antelopes, wild goats and sheep, zebras, giraffes, wild horses and donkeys), civets, pangolins, ant eaters, primates (monkeys and apes), red panda etc are all showing signs of alarming decline in their respective ecosystems and habitats. The highly biodiverse but economically poor countries of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Eurasian region are being worst impacted.
Poor economy, unstable political system, high rates of unemployment, racial and ethnic tensions, economic marginalization, persecution as well as rise of insurgence in several developing and under developed countries have been impacting global forests, wildlife and biodiversity; and hence the different vulnerable mammalian species directly as well as indirectly.
Hunger and desperation have been pushing isolated tribes, forest residents and fringe dwellers, remote rural communities to be involved in poaching and trafficking of wildlife and stealing or over harvesting of major and minor forest resources.
Highly organized, poaching gangs with sophisticated weapons and gadgets are engaging such economically impoverished and marginalized communities as their trackers, porters, guides, informers and temporary shelter providers to escape forest guards, police and local administration, security forces and border patrols in sensitive ecosystems.
The heavy dependence of local communities on the local forests and wildlife for their daily sustenance has been pushing these over exploited forests towards rapid deterioration. As a consequence of illegal encroachments inside the forests, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation mammals existing in these ecosystems are becoming more visible and are coming in close proximity of their human neighbors resulting in serious human-animal conflicts with wild cats, elephants, primates, ungulates, ruminants; as well as all kinds of herbivorous (deer and antelopes, elephants), carnivorous (wild cats and canids) and omnivorous (bears) mammals.
The rapid rate of deforestation, unrestricted and unmonitored natural as well as anthropogenic forest fires, illegal encroachments into forested areas, grazing of livestock and cattle in restricted forested areas, soil erosion, primitive slash and burn method of agriculture have resulted in complete habitat destruction and habitat fragmentation for numerous mammals around the globe.
These factors have directly and indirectly contributed to the loss of hunting and breeding habitats for many mammals making them vulnerable to predation, poaching, diseases and frequent, deadly human-animal conflicts. Several of these negative anthropogenic factors have decimated mammalian species in both northern and southern hemispheres.
Lack of proper mammalian conservation strategies, policies, logistics, training and awareness and proper legislation have impacted populations of different mammalian species and sub species across the globe. Furthermore, the huge pressure exerted by international, illegal wildlife markets operating in China and Southeast Asia have been rapidly closing opportunities for heavily and overexploited mammalian species to revert back to their basic population dynamics.
The high demand for mammalian body organs, trophies, horns, antlers, fur, skin, pelt, scales, teeth, claws, skulls, bones, cartilages, embryos, bush meat, blood, bile, mucilage; and even excretory products in illegal wildlife markets have been causing havoc to wild populations of several mammalian species.
The newly emergent pet industry is harvesting young mammals at the cost of killing their parents to retrieve them safely and damaging and/or crashing their wild population bases. Climate Change and Global Warming is also forcing several mammalian species to move to lower altitudes in search of food making them vulnerable to exploitation, poaching and deadly human-animal conflicts.
The condition of several marine mammals like whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, walruses, dugongs, manatees, otters, etc are getting bad to worse due to over exploitation, marine pollution and destruction of crucial and highly sensitive marine ecosystems and habitats. The rise of traffic movements in global oceans, severe pollution, destructive mass scale fishing techniques and discharge of untreated sewage and distrust effluents directly into coastal, estuarine and marine ecosystems have been pushing several marine mammals towards slow extinction.
The over exploitation and non judicious, indiscriminate if harvesting of several marine mammals fir food and industrial purposes is resulting in irreversible population crashes and bottlenecks for many marine mammals; and is in need of urgent intervention for their future survival.
Hence, we can confidently mention that mammals surviving in both terrestrial and aquatic (freshwater and marine) ecosystems have been deeply and negatively impacted around the globe by anthropogenic factors. Superficial and cosmetic conservation efforts initiated by some countries will not help in the recovery of their global populations. A more holistic and cooperative approach is needed for protecting endangered mammals.
Small local and/or regional efforts may be inspiring but not sufficient enough to bring in major global changes. Adjacent countries need to cooperate and coordinate with one another through Joint Conservation Initiative (JCI) to protect terrestrial as well as freshwater and marine mammals comprehensively through well development management strategies, policies and legislation’s. We need both strong regional and international cooperation to protect global mammals through consistent conservation efforts.