Imagine a world without wildlife… no birds singing their songs in the morning, no exciting glimpse of a jaguar while hiking in the rain forest,no sighting of a rare sea turtle while snorkeling, no dolphins jumping and playing amongst the ocean current and waves… Instead you get dead silence. Instead of a luscious canopy of trees, or a spectacular melting pot of some of the world’s most splendid and colorful marine life living around coral reefs, you see nothing but a void of life. What was once a magnificent coral reef or tropical forest is slowly becoming barren- don’t you know that some of the world’s flora depends on wildlife to spread seeds and even help germinate? Many plant life cannot survive located close to conspecifics as a result of competition and disease. Various mutualistic relationships are at play in nature between animals and plants. One cannot necessarily survive without the other, which could cause a catastrophic domino effect within the local ecosystem affecting other organisms within the environment.
“So what? So what if there are no more lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!). So what if the forest are not as green, or the coral reefs are not teeming with life?” This is the thought of too many people in our world and that is because the overall human population has lost their connection (and respect) for nature. They see themselves outside of nature, not part of it, which we very much are! We depend on wildlife and forests for various aspects in our life. For one, there are many rural communities that depend on wildlife for food. No wildlife, no food on the table for your family. Or maybe you hunt and fish to sell that meat to make money? What happens when you over hunt or fish? No money. Just recently an article came out in the San Pedro Sun (http://www.sanpedrosun.com/environment/2016/02/27/staple-fish-species-population-declining/) illustrating the devastating effects of over-fishing. And besides fishing in an unsustainable way, maybe destroying the mangroves that is a nursery to so many staple fish in the area may also be contributing to the decline of fish being caught? A once small, flourishing fishing village may soon realize “traditional” practices and beliefs can no longer comply with the modern day demand, and immediate action must take place before the last fish is removed from the local sea.
And lets not forget all the jobs around the world that are tied to wildlife. Hiking tours, river cruises, snorkeling and diving trips… the majority of locals and travelers participate in such tours not just to sit on a boat or go swimming or walk around a forest. They go on these tours to SEE wildlife. That’s the main attraction! What kid wants to go to Disneyland yet not get on any rides or not see Mickey Mouse??? Pretty disappointing, right? No wildlife, no eco-tourism, no jobs, no money…. need I say more?
Furthermore, being in nature is very therapeutic. In such a fast-pace, stressful world we sometimes forget to take a moment to ourselves, or reconnect with the world around us. Studies coming out of Japan have illustrated that taking time with nature or walking through a forest has beneficial therapeutic effects on people, causing clarity and relaxation. Some studies have mentioned it is a result of “soothing” chemicals that are released by trees, or maybe it’s our primitive nature reconnecting as we are all connected- The Circle of Life.
Lastly, so much of wildlife is ingrained in one’s culture. Americans, imagine how you would feel when the last Bald Eagle falls from the sky from lead poisoning? Belizeans, how will you react when the last mighty jaguar succumbs to a poacher’s trap? What will be China’s words to the world be when Panda Bears go extinct? So much pride, so much folklore, so much culture surrounds the wildlife within our borders. Thus when the wildlife disappears from the Earth, a piece of are culture disappears with it.
This week in Belize, the Belize Forest Department (BFD) will be kicking off their Wildlife Public Awareness and Education Campaign at the Ruta Maya canoe race. Their principal theme: Imagine… Belize Without Wildlife. Wildlife Is Our Culture And Our Identity… Our Actions Will Determine Their Future. The Crocodile Research Coalition is sponsoring the BFD in this campaign, doing our part in outreach and education. We look forward to assisting the BFD, as well as many of the other wildlife and conservation organizations within Belize, to ensure this campaign is successful in reaching out to the people. We look forward to making a positive step forward in building the bridge between humans and nature, as well as ensuring the future generations in Belize grow-up in a thriving community of flora and fauna. Because, imagine Belize without wildlife…..