Study Wildlife Conservation
This course will provide you with the opportunities to enhance your career in:
- Wildlife Conservation
- Caring for Sick and Injured Wildlife
- Planning for Wildlife Conservation
- Working with government agencies to help conserve wildlife
- 100 hours
COURSE STRUCTURE - 10 lessons
Lesson 1: Introduction to Wildlife Conservation: What is wildlife conservation, Why do we need to conserve wildlife, important concepts, threatening processes, biodiversity indicators and terminology.
Lesson 2: Recovery of Threatened Species: Loss of species, species vulnerable to endangerment, recovery of species, managing threats, habitat conservation, research, captive breeding, translocation and public involvement.
Lesson 3: Habitat Conservation: Habitat types, habitat use, species richness, fragmentation of habitat, creating habitats, restoration ecology, habitat rehabilitation, the role of GIS, the role of protected areas.
Lesson 4: Approaches to Conservation of Threatened Wildlife: Species approach, landscape approach and ecosystem approach.
Lesson 5: Vegetation Surveys: Plant identification, vegetation survey techniques,quadrat surveys, landscape assessments, line surveys and vegetation mapping.
Lesson 6: Fauna Surveys: Observation techniques, spotlighting, scat surveys, trapping techniques, radio tracking, call recording, elliot traps and species identification.
Lesson 7: Marine Conservation: reef surveys, habitat surveys, aerial surveys, overexploitation and commercial fish stock management.
Lesson 8: Planning for Wildlife: Farm planning, creating corridors, benefits of conserving wildlife on farms, urban planning, creating habitats in urban areas.
Lesson 9: Management: managing threatened wildlife populations, manipulating numbers, restoring habitat, creating corridors, pest control plans, fencing for protection and creating fire breaks.
Lesson 10: Wildlife Recovery Project: In this lesson you will work through a hypothetical scenario of protecting a threatened species. You will suggest survey techniques and provide guidelines for the ongoing conservation of the species and its habitat.
The IUCN Red List of 2009 identified more than 17,291 of 47,677 species assessed are currently threatened with extinction. Things have become much worse since then. This is around 36% of those assessed. There are an estimated 1.8 million recognised species on earth. However, the health and status of most of these species has not yet been assessed.
Amphibians appear to be facing the greatest threat, with around 30% of the 6 285 assessed species in danger of extinction. The deadly chytrid fungus (mentioned in lesson 1) is blamed for the extinction of the Kihansi Spray Toad (Nectophrynoides asperginis) in the wild within the last year.
Factors that lead to species loss worldwide include habitat loss, disease, overexploitation, invasive species, climatic changes, and pollution. It is usually a combination of some of these factors that lead to the extinction of a species. Below is a graph showing the percentage of species threatened by various causes. Although this data is from 1998, the trend has remained the same over time. As you can see, habitat loss is the major threat to plant and animal species worldwide.
Categories of Risk
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has placed species into categories of risk using criteria that focus on the absolute size of wild populations and changes to the populations in the last 10 years.
In 2009, the number of species falling into each of these categories on the IUCN Red List Status of Endangered Species were:
- Extinct: 809
- Extinct in wild: 66
- Critically endangered: 3,325 (257 of these species are considered possibly extinct)
- Endangered: 4,891
- Vulnerable to Extinction: 9,075
- Near Threatened: 3,650
SPECIES VULNERABILITY TO ENDANGERMENT
Although human impacts are generally the major cause of species extinction, there are observable characteristics in species that can make them more vulnerable to extinction. These include rarity, ability to disperse, degree of specialisation, population variability, their trophic level, life span and reproductive rate.
In general, rare species are more susceptible to extinction than more common species. This may seem fairly straight forward, however, it is not as simple as it appears. Some more common species might be more susceptible to changes in climate. The concept of rarity depends on three factors – geographic range, size of habitat and size of the local population. Species are usually considered rare if they are found in only one geographic area or particular type of habitat. However, a species that may be widespread but at a very low density can also be considered rare (such as the koala in the western extent of its range). In these situations the management of habitat for conservation is more likely to be successful for species restricted to one area of type of habitat rather than widely dispersed species.
Ability to Disperse
Those species that are able to migrate between fragments of habitat are more likely to survive and less susceptible to extinction. Many forest species of birds show limited abilities to disperse into other forest fragments and are therefore more likely to become endangered.
Degree of Specialisation
Plants and animals that have specialised habitat requirements are generally more susceptible to endangerment. For example, the panda of China and the koala of Australia have extremely specialised diets which puts them at a higher risk of extinction.
Species that have relatively stable populations can be less prone to extinction than other species. Species that have big cycle changes in population size such as Lemmings (see below) are thought to be more susceptible to extinction.
Those animals occupying higher trophic levels usually have smaller populations, such as the Californian Condor. These species are reliant on the presence of species in the lower trophic levels to meet their energy requirements. These two factors make these species more susceptible to extinction.
Those species that have a shorter life span are more likely to become extinct. Species that are longer lived are more likely to live through ecological hardships to reproduce in later years, whereas shorter-lived species may not. The Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) of Australia is one example of a short-lived species that has become endangered due to its inability to maintain a sustainable number of breeding adults to compensate for reduced numbers due to habitat loss and increased predation.
Population growth will affect a species’ susceptibility to extinction. Those species that are able to reproduce and breed quickly are generally more likely to recover from population crashes. Small mammals such as mice are able to reproduce at a higher rate, which makes them less susceptible. Species such as the Passenger Pigeon of the United States laid only one egg per year, this, in conjunction with overexploitation contributed to their decline.
Those species with a combination of these traits are more susceptible to extinction. For example, the salamanders are often long-lived, slow-breeding species with a limited ability to disperse over long distances. There has been a sharp decline in the number of salamander species worldwide. Some species that had been surveyed in the forests of southern Mexico and Guatemala in the 1970’s are now extinct, whilst other population numbers are decreasing rapidly.
RECOVERY OF SPECIES
Due to the extreme pressures many of our plant and animal species have been put under, governments across the world have initiated recovery plans to mitigate further loss. Recovery programs usually involve many aspects. These can include:
- Identification of threats to species
- Identify specific areas/populations under threat
- Identify critical habitat of threatened species
- Monitoring threatened populations
- Collect biological and ecological data (eg. use of habitat, population dynamics, movement patterns, identify important roost/breeding sites)
- Maintaining or enhancing habitat for threatened species
- Pest Control Programs (eg. weeds, disease, introduced wildlife)
- Fencing of threatened habitats
- Harvesting for genetic variation (eg. seed collection)
- Captive Breeding programs
- Translocation of populations or individuals if required (eg. frog species suffering local extinctions)
- Community Education and Involvement
- Review of recovery actions
Many governing bodies have initiated what is sometimes referred to as Threat Abatement Plans or Threat Management Plans to tackle particular threatening processes affecting vulnerable species. These plans will usually incorporate the following:
- Outline actions to manage the threatening process
- Explain how to measure the success of these actions
- Identify authorities responsible for carrying out the actions
- Provide priorities and timetable for actions as well as costings
For Threat Management Plans to work, it requires the cooperation and participation of Environmental Protection Agencies, other government authorities, corporations, organisations and the community.
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