For too long, the environment has been taken for granted. Extinction is a natural phenomenon that slowly shapes new species while existing species gradually diminish. However, due to human activity, animal extinction rates are unnaturally spiking. Global warming, overexploitation of land and destruction of habitats create imbalanced ecosystems. Many animals no longer exist in the wild, and are found only in captivity; in zoos and reserves.
Today we understand that entire ecosystems function as a delicate balance of species interacting in a woven tapestry of interdependencies. Even from a human selfish point of view, destruction of natural environments should raise concern as they are critically important to our existence.
A sad but true generalization is that animals are in decline where humans habitat.
In the last few decades tourism has changed the fate of many animals around the world. For years species' populations were dwindling due to massive poaching. Elephant tusks, rhino horns, predators' skins - body parts of many animals considered to have medicinal qualities or ornamental value - have all been harvested, taking entire species' lives for profit. But wildlife tourism is changing the picture, actually saving and conserving many species.
With the realization that tourists will happily pay to see wildlife in their natural habitats, the understanding that animals are worth more alive, providing repeated revenue, rather than a one-time profit of their body parts, people began to defend their land and animal resources, putting efforts towards conservation. Animals that were once considered at risk of extinction are now growing in numbers.
The 'industry' of safari tourism is a positive influence; species are being saved, income is provided in areas where other opportunities are scarce, and tourists are positively impacting protection and conservation of natural habitats.
Evoked by the sudden disappearance of bees from the wild, in what is known as the Colony Collapse Disorder that began in late 2006, and the efforts made for their restoration, my In Flight series focuses on the pollinating force of our planet.
Using animal photography as an important part of my process, in this series I portray insects in flight as they would be captured through the camera lens. Focusing on the tiny insect, the bokeh (out-of-focus) background is blurry.
Capturing the speed and movement of the fragile creature in mid-air, In Flight, the insect too is out-of-focus. The tiny insects may seem insignificant in the large landscape, but their existence is crucial to preserving entire ecosystems.
Although not on the endangered list, flamingos are considered vulnerable specie. Living in crowded populations, flamingos are sensitive to changes in their natural wetland habitats.
Pollution, toxins, high salinity, drastic changes in water levels and land fragmentation are all changes in their habitats brought on by humans that can cause rapid decline in flamingo populations.
We are conscious of human activity that pushes species to endangerment, but often opposite influences on synanthropic (from Greek: syn-, "together with" + anthro, "man") species are disregarded. These animals are ecologically associated with humans; they live near, benefit from, and are actually adapting to living off of human habitats.
Many of these species are animals that humans try to get rid of, like rodents, cockroaches, lice, and even pigeons. These species are flourishing in response to expansion of human habitats. By developing resistance to human effort of restricting them, they become immune, grow resilient and actually flourish.
Crows are an example of such synanthropic birds. They are found in close proximity to human habitats. Wherever there are people living, whether in sparse rural areas or in crowded cities, crows are always nearby.
Remarkably intelligent, they are known to manufacture and use tools in their search for food. They learned to utilize human environment to their benefit - using bread crumbs as fishing bait, dropping nuts into heavy traffic for cars to crush and expose their inner fruit.
Originating in China, pandas were introduced to the western world only in the 20th century.
Past hunting and poaching, low reproduction rate together with increase in habitat loss due to human expansion, their population declined dramatically.
Today, pandas in captivity around the world (and cubs born to them) are on loan from China for determined periods of time.
Large herds of bison have once roamed the grasslands of North America. After reaching almost extinction, today the bison population is restricted to a few national parks and reserves.
For generations, Native Americans hunted bison for their survival, using almost every part of the animal - extracting meat for food, leather for covering, tendon for bows, dung for fire, hooves for glue, using every bit of the animal. Bison population was booming.
In the 19th century, as the Europeans settled North America, what until then was hunting for survival turned extensive. Entire herds were slaughtered for trade and trophy hunting. This drove the bison specie to near extinction.
While bison population dwindled, an opposite, private movement for bison preservation began. Today, national and state parks in the U.S. and Canada are partners in the preservation efforts.
In addition, these days, bison meat and milk products are considered a healthier choice to beef and bison are grown commercially, to supply consumer's demand.
|Copyright © 2006 by Tamar Assaf|