wildlife: living things that are neither human nor domesticated(Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, 1993)
Why is wildlife so important? Or, why should we spend millions at protecting it? Those are questions I get from time to time, and as they are asked, the answers are not as obvious as I would wish. They lie in respect for nature and all living beings, including those often considered as
less worthy, as pests even, that are best wiped off the face of the earth as soon as possible.
Of all wildlife, it is the wolf (Canis lupus and related species) that has come closest to me. I cannot really explain why, but perhaps the changing views of it throughout mankind's history, along with the wolf's way of living, can go to some length to explain that.
Some people think that I am only concerned with the wolf, however. The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth than that. While the wolf gets much of my attention, I also do realize the need for other wildlife as well – and the word wildlife encompasses so much more than just animals, as illustrated by the definition above. What I am working toward is not just the well-being of the wolves, but rather the well-being of the entire ecosystem. That includes, but is most certainly not limited to, large predators (wolves, bears, lions, eagles - the list goes on). Another part of a healthy ecosystem is a healthy prey population; then there is their food supply, and of course smaller predators (including animals not normally thought of as predators at all), as well as scavengers. Some species may serve more than one of these functions, but anyone who seriously claims that a healthy, self-sustaining ecosystem do not require all of these should probably read up on their biology.
Unfortunately, there are some people who take my opinions on wildlife conservation as though I am completely opposed to hunting. Again, the answer is not that simple. What I do not like at all is people who like to take lives with no other motivation than that it is
fun, gives them
outdoor experience, and other motivations much like those. I am no stranger to killing even though I am no hunter myself, but such killing should be to either provide food (and then you better be prepared to eat what you kill, too, and not only take a trophy, as far too many human
hunters do), or to protect lives and safety. There is nothing inherently wrong with the act of hunting; however the way some humans do it, including some human hunters' opinion that Scandinavian wild moose should be fed by humans and the natural predators (effectively or completely) removed from the ecosystem in order to raise the ungulate population to generate more profit to the land owners, shows a frightening lack of respect for the natural processes. Such
hunting should rightfully be condemned, as it is not hunting but rather an industrialization of nature.
Humans have only been able to seriously affect nature for the last few hundred to few thousand years, depending on what exactly you mean with
seriously affect. That should be compared to the some 60,000,000 (yes, that is 60 million) years that have passed since mammals grew into the dominant group of animals on land after the fall of the dinosaurs, or the many hundreds of millions of years throughout which all kinds of animals have walked on this planet – evolved, thrived, and eventually disappeared. Indeed, scientists now believe that the first life came to earth very soon after it cooled off some 4,000,000,000 (four billion) years ago. To believe that one such species, Homo sapiens, which has only existed for a glimpse of that time, is an absolute prerequisite for the continued survival of life on our planet simply because she walks on her hind legs, is nothing short of foolish.
There is only reason one could ever claim that humans are required for the continued survival of life on earth, and that is that we as a species have destroyed and disrupted such a large portion of the world's ecosystems. The proper way to solve that, however, is not to destroy yet more of the world (some already argue that our own success as a species may well become our demise), but rather to try to restore at least some of what once was. Life existed long before the first humans walked on this planet, and will still exist long after humans are dead, gone and long forgotten. The question that really should be asked is thus: should we allow nature and Mother Earth to thrive while we are still around, or should nature basically have to start from scratch once humans are gone?
The answer, to me, is to not exterminate those species that humans at any specific point in time consider to be
less valuable for one reason or another, but rather to do our utmost to preserve all aspects of life.