conservation purposes. There are many external and environmental factors that can influence the biodiversity in these parks. Climate change and severe weather are factors beyond human control. On the other hand, animal poaching and deforestation are human activities that threaten animal and plant populations and for which there is usually a legal penalty. There are also internal factors to consider. Some of the biggest ones include invasion species and high animal populations. Controlling animal numbers in these habitats continues to be a matter of great debate.
Why Animal Population Control Matters
A lot is spoken about endangered animal species. These populations have fallen to such low numbers that the survival of the entire species is at risk. In such cases, human beings step in to protect these species, often away from their natural habitats. Examples of endangered species include tigers, giant pandas, sea turtles, and gorillas. On the other extreme, some animal species have grown rapidly leading to excessive numbers. While this might seem like a good thing, it raises a number of serious concerns.
Every natural habitat has a maximum number of animal and plant species that it can naturally support and sustain. This is the natural balance of the ecosystem and the food chain. As an example, if a habitat has lions as predators at the top of the chain feeding on deer, the lion population in that area must never become so great that all the deer are completely wiped out. When certain animal populations blow up, this threatens the balance of nature.
One of the best examples of this is the elephant population in some countries in Southern Africa such as South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Elephants are beautiful and majestic creatures. While it is great that their numbers are healthy and their survival is not being threatened too much by illegal poaching of their tusks that happens often, these animals are the largest land mammals. Having more elephants threatens the biodiversity of national parks and wildlife in general. As the elephants feed on leaves and often pull out whole trees, not only does this impact plant biodiversity, it also affects other animals that either feed on the same trees or live in them. Elephant activities also lead to lots of soil erosion. In the same way that humans step in to protect endangered species, they must also intervene when one particular animal population threatens many others.
Different Ways to Tackle High Animal Populations
After considering the importance of animal population control, we must look at the methods that have been used to do this. One of the most common and often controversial ones is animal culling. Other options also include relocating animals, contraception, and introducing new species into the same space where possible.
• Culling: Culling is the selective slaughter of animals to reduce huge populations. One of the best historical examples of this was the use of a virus to control rabbit populations in Australia in 1950. As a result, the population dropped from roughly 600 million to 100 million. This has been used for animals such as elephants although opposed by many.
• Relocation: Relocation is also another great option for controlling animal populations. National parks that have higher populations of a particular species can move some of their animals to parks with smaller populations. Impact studies must be carried out before this is done. There is also the high cost of the operation to consider for larger animals.
• Contraception: Animal contraception is also a long-term strategy that can be explored to control animal populations that are seen to be getting out of control.