The Vanishing Tigers
Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
- William Blake
Among the obvious consequences of deforestation is the loss of living space. Seventy percent of the earth’s land animals and plants reside in forests, and destroying them would make those creatures homeless. For centuries people have hunted animals for food and pleasure. The invention of the gun made it so easy for humans to hunt that some animals were killed by the thousands and even became extinct. This brings up some serious issues since breaks in the food chain upset the balance of nature.
In Australia in the 1950s, the rabbit population was so large that they ate the land bare and erosion set in, making the land infertile. The government attempted to reduce the rabbit population by introducing foxes, wire fences and poisons, but nothing worked. Finally, they intentionally infected rabbits in the most populated areas. The virus was transmitted from rabbit to rabbit by insects. Over the next three years rabbits died by the millions, agriculture rebounded and everybody was happy.
Then, unfortunately, there was a sudden upset in the balance of nature. The Explorit Science Center reports that the virus had been successfully introduced into European rabbits too and, “with a scarcity of rabbits, foxes began eating poultry, rats and mice. The resulting reduction in the numbers of mice caused a decline in the numbers of owls whose normal diet (mice) became less abundant” - and this disruption continued down the food chain (explorit.org).
There are many cases like this. If we continue to tinker with Mother Nature, we could be in serious trouble. Majestic animals like tigers are killed by the hundreds every year in India. The Royal Bengal tiger is the only type that exists in India and their number is dramatically reduced every year because of poaching. The current number is approximately...