Why Is Wildlife Still Disappearing?

Thoughtful Australians are asking: Why are we still losing wildlife despite having more national parks and other reserves [“parks”] than ever before?

Research at the National University suggests that a major reason is that the parks are in the wrong places. Wrong? How?

Parks in Residual Areas

Too many parks are in residual areas – that is, in areas deemed unlikely to be profitable for human business of farming, logging, mining.

So wildlife is driven to forage on land that is relatively poor in nutrients and in nesting places. Similarly, marine parks are being opened to fishing, with consequent loss of fish-diversity.

Cities rapidly expand

Cities and large towns are expanding in every country, putting pressure on nearby countryside and its dependent wildlife. By 2030, two-thirds of Earth’s people will live in cities – with Australia one of the most urbanised of all.

In just three and a half decades the world’s cities will swell by 2.5 billion people!

As alarm at this prospect spreads, some people are calling for “re-wilding” measures to preserve and enhance natural habitat; others for “bewildering”, a broader concept, which means making provision for combined people’s and wildlife’s well-being.

“Re-wild” or “Bewilder”

As Bob Crombie explains, bewildering is “planting appropriate vegetation, removing rubbish, obstacles and weeds, and creating and enhancing habitat wherever we can, thus facilitating the process of allowing other species to live with us in our backyards, suburbs, cities, industrial areas and rural areas, and creating healthy surrounds for people.

We need to preserve old trees, for they have natural hollows that provide homes for many birds and animals. (It can take a tree 120-200 years to create hollows suitable for wildlife.) About 350 species use hollows for roosting or nesting.

A kind of religious faith

Bob Crombie has been a park ranger for many years; later, a TAFE lecturer in environmental management. He is a leader of the successful campaign for World Heritage Listing by UNESCO of Royal National Park. He recently observed:

“Royal National Park was a big part of my childhood and its wildness is a voice that never stops whispering. Wildness enters your pores by osmosis, and once it’s under your skin, good luck forgetting. The wild haunts the imagination, calling you back to places of vast sky and ever changing light, where solitude hunts for you and the edges of the world get ragged. These empty spaces are mirrors; they reflect back everything of yourself. They are teachers too, of a thousand lessons beyond anything our hands have made. Out there, time stops walking and takes on different hues, a bewildering experience.

“Royal National Park is recognised by the IUCN as a great treasure, one of the world’s great urban national parks entirely within and part of the great cities of Sydney and Wollongong. How fortunate we are.

“Nasho filled my being with the joy and mystery of living; it gave me reverence for all life and helped me to create a kinship with it where there is a place for all things in the scheme of existence with equal importance to all. It was a great place to touch the Earth and feel the Sun and Moon. Nasho was a great library and its books were the flowers, the trees, the rocks and streams that spoke in quiet voices whenever I had the presence to listen. I truly learned to do what only the student of Nature learns and that is to wonder. No need to rail at the storms, wind, rain, cold, ticks and leeches. It was all one.”

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