The risks of a highly interconnected world
Interconnected, globalised, borderless. That is how our world looks today, a microcosm in which how a single state behaves can have unimagined and significant consequences on the rest of the planet. From an all-encompassing approach, this interdependence becomes salient when combating wildlife loss, promoting biodiversity preservation, and fostering the protection of megaherbivores, due to how state policies, ranging from land use and deforestation policies to wildlife trafficking and conservation deregulation, can directly mould global ecosystems and their management.
Land use policies; at the service of the common good or global destruction?
“Economy over conservation”. Sadly, this is the national motto that prevails in decision-making settings and policy enforcement dynamics. This prioritisation has fostered the development of state land use policies that directly harm the ecosystem by promoting the expansion of agriculture and logging projects at the expense of destroying the habitats of several species. Particularly, Malaysia’s land use policies have destined huge areas of their forests in Borneo to palm oil plantations, an economically enriching national strategy that has not only transformed the Malaysian landscapes, but it has also reduced, fragmented, and irreversibly damaged the natural habitat of all kinds of communities that have been forced to emigrate elsewhere. A similar situation is being faced in Brazil, where deforestation policies, which have led to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest, have reduced local biodiversity, threatened wildlife preservation initiatives, and likewise fostered their displacement.
Amazon deforestation. Source: Getty Images, Alan Chaves
Focusing on Malaysia, the Borneo’s Asian elephant is one of the key species directly affected by these land use policies, as the massive grasslands they need to live comfortably are being used for palm oil production. Sadly, instead of picturing the Asian elephant as the innocent victim of habitat loss, these megaherbivores get poisoned, or even killed, because of having damaged the same palm oil plantations that have turned their habitats into manmade areas of agricultural exploitation. These non-sensical accusations have intensified the elephant-farmer conflicts and likewise strengthened the enforcement of more strict land use policies at the expense of displacing and killing these majestic species, perpetuating habitat destruction practices.
“Palm-oil survivors”, by Aaron ‘Bertie’ Gekoski
Unfortunately, what might initially be considered an isolated and nationally delimited circumstance, can end up having direct and indirect international repercussions, as wildlife loss and biodiversity threats affect general ecosystemic dynamics. Specifically, Malaysian palm oil policies and Brazilian deforestation, by forcing species’ displacement, have destabilised and disrupted other ecological niches and biodiversity patterns around the world. And not only that: Asian elephants have a dual role as the gardeners of the planet, due to seed dispersion, and air pollution mitigators, because of how the disseminated seeds can turn into trees that trap carbon dioxide, showing how harming and killing these megaherbivores, by enforcing said policies, has global and borderless effects beyond local consequences.
National deregulation at the expense of animal exploitation
Not only the presence, but also the lack of effective national policies that protect endangered species from trafficking organisations and international webs of distribution, poses a threat to wildlife and biodiversity preservation. Poaching and trade of ivory and horns have become Elephants and Rhinos’ worst nightmare, deregulated practices in Africa and Asia that have not only produced a gender imbalance among these species, but they have also conditioned their gene pool, ecological and sexual selection, and long-term survival. Moreover, this biological trend and their decline has likewise impacted other species that rely on the ecosystemic role elephants and rhinos play.
Source: Freeland, by Siwaporn T
Sadly, the list of species around the world that find themselves unprotected by effective state policies is endless. The pangolin, found in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Laos, gets trafficked and traded on a daily basis due to a high demand from traditional medicine and pet markets, a similar trend found in Thailand and Laos, where different body parts of tigers are likewise used for traditional medicine purposes, and in Madagascar with lemurs, where they are trafficked as exotic pets. By taking into consideration how the pangolin plays a pivotal role in insect control, how the tiger, by being a top predator in the ecological pyramid, is involved in natural population control, and how the lemur is a seed disperser and pollinator, their decline impacts the correct functioning of diverse ecosystems, disrupts borderless ecological patterns, and threatens biodiversity preservation strategies.
Sources: a) WCS, Paul Hilton. b) National Geography image collection, Vincent J. Musi
Interconnectedness: a bliss or our source of misery?
Action is required: if these states do not put forward conservation-oriented policies, these major ecological imbalances will not stop, compromising the interconnected, globalised, and borderless planet that these threatened species inhabit; that we all inhabit.