How Wildlife Conservation Can Alleviate Poverty

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SEATTLE — A fact little acknowledged in the human world, the prosperity of mankind is intertwined with the prosperity of wildlife and the animal kingdom. While overpopulation rates have skyrocketed in the past century, so have animal extinctions. Overpopulation is plaguing developing countries, and new problems are being faced in nature.

The depletion of water supplies, deforestation, imbalance in ecosystems, natural disasters, lack of resources and animal extinctions all have dangerous and costly consequences for developing nations. These issues add to the cycle that is mother to child poverty and reinforces overpopulation, therefore adding to natural dilemmas as well as social problems. In recent studies, scientists have found that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty.

An important part of protecting species is shielding their habitats from obliteration with actions such as forest protection as well as freshwater and ocean conservation. The loss of these regions and natural areas result in the loss of vital resources such as clean water, a staple necessary for all life, not just endangered species.

The natural world and its animal kingdom consist of necessities for human life, called “ecoservices”, further enforcing the fact that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty through natural sources. Ecoservices can include clean water, weather stabilization, clean air and food. These ecoservices were estimated to amount to $33 trillion in 1997, which is almost double the value of the entire global economy.

World Wildlife Fund completed a project in Dongting Lake, China, in which it paid nearby farmers to help restore the lake and its health. This not only created jobs, but once the project was complete, the health, nutrition and stability of the community increased. For example, farmers who had lost their houses in floods were able to rebuild due to the new stability and health of the ecosystem.

This community thrived due to the newly restored biodiversity: new agricultural jobs appeared, nutrition improved thanks to the healthy plant life and ecosystem and it was able to help nearby communities. Biodiversity and conservation help natural resources prosper, which allows communities to do the same, once again proving that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty in communities.

When a country has water security, for example, the country’s health increases, and accordingly, it gains more workers able to contribute to the economy. Clean water is therefore an ecoservice because of the important role it plays in society and a country’s economy.

When the economy thrives, the country is able to establish better school systems, manage national health more effectively and gain security that can result in not only citizen safety, but also global tourism to the area, adding to the economy that much more. Something as simple as clean water sources can affect the entire developing world, reinforcing that wildlife conservation can alleviate poverty.

Economic development, especially in poor rural areas, depends on the health of the environment it is residing in. Scientists have found that conservation can alleviate poverty in many different environments. Forests stabilize weather patterns, helping communities avoid natural disasters such as floods or droughts, therefore protecting their crops and human lives.

Forests affect human hunger through weather stabilization, and the disappearance of one key species can affect the entire forest. If one of those species is endangered, or a species that it is dependent on is endangered, the entire biodiversity of the forest can collapse, and will result in disasters such as nationwide hunger.

Conservation of habitats, which save endangered species, ensure biodiversity. Studies have shown that ecosystems that possess a wider range of diversity among species are the most stable. Stability in ecosystems brings stability to humans and in the process reduces poverty. Wildlife conservation is one of the most powerful ways to alleviate poverty in developing countries through the means of conserving its diverse population of species. Every time a species goes extinct, the diversity of a habitat decreases.

Every species plays a large part in an ecosystem just by interacting normally, and has the power to destroy an environment with its absence. It is critical to the safety of the communities that are dependent on the resources it can provide that not only the environment remains secure, but that the residing animals do as well. Saving endangered species means saving their environments, which in the end saves mankind as well. Conservation can alleviate poverty, and it is time humans treated it as such.

– Emily Degn

Photo: Flickr

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