Where do tigers live? In a zoo? In the forests of Asia? All
tigers live in a habitat. The jungles of India and the compound at the
local zoo are both tiger habitats--places where the right conditions exist for
tigers to live. Habitat loss is what happens when an area becomes
unsuitable for a species to live. Your back yard may no longer be habitat
for cougars and wolves, yet still be habitat for squirrels and robins as it has
been for centuries. Because different species depend on each other to
survive, habitat loss for one species can mean trouble for many others.
SILENT KILLER: One summer found a forest full
of life. Birds sang in the leaf decked boughs of oak and ash, and
squirrels hurried by on endless errands. Quail and rabbits clung to the
hedgerow that ran along a long forgotten fence, vigilant against the foraging
foxes and their hungry new family. None of them paid much heed to the
fresh sign tacked on a fencepost. "Private Property: Horizon
Development." The next summer was scored by unsightly muddy roads,
marred by gravel piles, and scented with a faint trace of diesel fuel. And
before much longer where foxes hunted rabbits and otters played in the stream
had become a community of houses, each like the other. What few trees grew
there were brought in by landscapers, relying on stakes and wires to stand
against the unchecked wind. No one trapped the foxes or shot the
rabbits. No one drove the otters from the stream which still ran through
large gray concrete fixtures. One day they were there, and the next they
were gone never to return. Habitat loss is the silent killer.
LOSS IS A BIG PROBLEM: Every second an area
the size of two football fields ceases to become natural habitat. In a day
that adds up to an area larger than New York City. This results in an
average of 137 species of living things being driven into extinction every
day. There are several causes of habitat loss.
SPRAWL: Humans are a part of nature. We
have a right to a suitable habitat where we can live and work. Yet if some
thought is not put into the way we construct and manage our habitat, we will
destroy our world and perhaps ourselves. Urban sprawl is the uncontrolled
expansion of cities and communities that happens when growth is not planned.
TERM MANAGEMENT: This category is a
"catch all" for a number of human activities that extract some
resources and then abandon lands that are left unsuitable for other uses.
When wildlife habitat is mined for minerals and fossil fuels and not properly
reclaimed, it becomes barren. When forests are cut and new trees are
not planted, or jungles are burned, cropped, and abandoned, they become
barren. Careful choice of land and appropriate sustainable management
techniques can produce more timber and crops, and do so year after year, than
short term management. If our world is to survive, it will be due to
WORTHWHILE GOAL: If we learn to live within
our means, we can provide a good living for mankind while preserving the wild
places of the Earth for future generations. This may involve making some
tough choices, but the end result is well worth the price.