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You are here: The Impact of Extinction

The Impact of Extinction

We have been reading stories about the decline of many big cat species, particularly tigers, for years. By many experts’ accounts, some species of big cats could be entirely extinct in the wild within many of our lifetimes. A study led by William Ripple, a professor of forest ecology at Oregon State University, shows an overall decline in the world’s largest carnivores, including not just tigers but all big cats.

These animals’ beauty and power are what enchants most of us. However, what will our own species lose once these animals are gone? How will their extinction impact our lives? Their disappearance will surely make the world a less beautiful place for us big cat and animal lovers, but what else does it mean?

Ripple’s study investigates the impact that the extinction of these animals in the wild will have on the overall health of the planet. The effects of this loss will touch the lives of people around the globe, animal lovers or not. According to the study’s authors, this is a “major global concern”. Most big cats, along with other top predators like wolves and bear, are “apex predators”, meaning that they have few or no predators of their own and sit at the top of the food chain. Apex predators play an extremely important role in the health of their environment. Without the presence of a top predator, entire ecosystems can collapse. If you remove a top predator, typically the populations of the prey will explode which in turn depletes the ecosystem’s resources. Some of these resources are also relied upon by human populations in the area, their livestock, and their crops. All of this has a trickle-down effect. The removal of these animals from their natural habitats will not only have an ecological impact, but potentially a world-wide economic impact as well.

To read the full story of the study, go HERE.

Yet, despite so many arguments for the survival of various big cat species, we seem bent of destroying these majestic creatures (or at the least we are indifferent to their decline). It is vital to not only the big cats’ survival, but also to the survival of thousands of other species (including us), that we learn to protect and coexist with these predators. Yet how does that happen, especially in areas where the big cats threaten people’s own existence?

You can click on the links below for related articles and stories about different ways human populations have learned to coexist with their big cat neighbors and some very special efforts to save wild big cat populations from extinction.

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