As we go about our busy daily lives, we understandably often forget that we are part of a much bigger picture. To stay connected, we might watch the news. Our news, however, is largely focused on what is happening to our fellow humans. What is gravely lacking from the media is a continuous reminder that we are not alone. No, I am not referring to aliens, but they may as well be unless you live like Tarzan. I am speaking about our fellow species. Other than our pets, we are not exposed to many of our fellow land and ocean species. Since they are not part of our daily lives, how many of us realize that we are we silently witnessing an animal apocalypse? We are currently in the world’s 6th mass extinction phase. All caused by humans and climate change. And the latter is caused by humans as 97% of climate scientists agree. It was just discovered that, due to warmer waters induced by climate change, 900 miles of the Great Barrier Reef has been severely bleached. Most of it happened in 2016 alone. This is a shocking travesty. The current list of endangered species is well beyond alarming. Some of the large mammals may have caught our attention: an elephant is brutally poached for its tusks every 15 minutes; tigers are cruelly killed for their skins and parts; rhinos are now being savagely killed in sanctuaries and zoos for their horns. Many people, including Trump and his administration, think animals and the environment exist on this planet purely for human purposes. Once protected in the U.S., animals such as bears and wolves are now allowed to be killed while sleeping in their dens with their babies. Companies are now allowed to extract natural resources from U.S. national reserves. A list of public animal abusers has now been concealed by the U.S. government.
Overfished species are facing extinction including those that get caught in illegal fishing nets, such as the beautiful vaquita. With less than 60 left on our planet, it is the most endangered marine mammal in the world. That title used to belong to the baiji, the Yangtze River freshwater dolphin, until it became EXTINCT in 2006… I have not even scratched the overwhelming surface of the animals we are affecting, let alone plants and insects. So amidst all of the darkness and downpour of despair, is there any ray of hope for the future of Earth’s species? Or is it time to build another Noah’s Ark?
I believe that there is still hope. Here are some uplifting reasons that keeps hope alive:
- Something incredible is happening in some courts around the world. The intrinsic value of nature and wildlife is being recognized. They are being granted the same rights as human beings. For example, in India, dolphins living in captivity have been given “nonhuman rights.” Aquariums and waterparks exploiting dolphins have been banned since 2013. In November 2016, Cecelia, a captive zoo chimpanzee in Argentina, was given nonhuman status so that she could live out her remaining years in a sanctuary. The Nonhuman Rights Project is the only civil rights organization in the U.S. that actively works through litigation “to secure legally recognized fundamental rights for nonhuman animals.” The organization is currently fighting for Tommy and Kiko, two captive chimps featured in their popular documentary. Physical landscapes have also been given rights. In March 2017, an Indian court granted the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, sacred to Hindus, the same protective rights as people. Also in March 2017, New Zealand’s parliament granted human legal status to the Whanganui river, which is sacred to the Maori people.
- After much public outcry and tireless efforts from organizations, China has finally decided to take action to help the elephant crisis. The government has held public displays of burning ivory to take a stand against the ivory market. In December 2016, China announced that all ivory trade would be shut down by the end of 2017. Ivory factories are closing and the government is assisting carvers to transition to other work. The consequence of this monumental decision is already showing in ivory sales. Save the Elephants reported that in 2014, the wholesale price of ivory was $1200 per kilogram. A few months into 2017, the price has dropped to $730. That is great news for elephants!
- In Thailand this year, thanks to increased anti-poaching efforts, a new breeding population of the critically endangered Indochinese tiger was found—with six cubs! In Australia, a search is now on for the Tasmanian tiger, once believed to be extinct.
- There are many #RESIST campaigns in the U.S. and they keep on growing. People have decided that they will not let the new government detrimentally harm the environment and wildlife. They are making their voices heard and are taking concrete actions to fight back.
- And what about our little vaquita? The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is taking the reins to save this species by partnering with the government of Mexico with Operation Milagro III. Milagro means “miracle” in Spanish—appropriate since they are trying desperately to save it from being wiped off of our planet forever.
Hopefully I have inspired you to feel hope as well. Hope, however, is not enough. ACTION from caring people is what has made all of this possible. Imagine what we could do if more people got onboard. So how about we all agree that we never allow our animals to board another Noah’s Ark because they all belong right here beside us—as rightful citizens of planet Earth and with rights of their own to live and thrive. There is no time to waste as the extinction clock is ticking. Together, let’s protect nature and our nonhuman friends—now.