Hunting, extinction, and our future

Dr. Utku Perktaş is a professor in the Biology Department at Hacettepe University.

European Rock Dove, Streptopelia turtur 

Thanks to strong reactions from the press, social media, some official institutions, and conservationists, nature is back in the hands of its real owners. In Turkey’s eastern province of Tunceli, the hunting permission for mountain goats, which have folkloric and spiritual value for the locals, got canceled. This prevents the wrong rulings that cause hunting. In this sixth extinction era of Earth, we were lucky to witness this positive step.

Humans stand at the center of extinction, and their behavior is unique among the other species we know. We observe that, in the 3.8 billion years of world history, human beings put themselves and their short-term goals as a priority. This species still strives to be the master instead of the planet, not its servant. And the inevitable cost of the increasing human population is habitat losses. Biodiversity, in the meantime, either gets stuck in one location or disappears. How? As an example, let’s look at how a large mammal that we all know got extinct.

Humans are wiping rhinos out.

Today, only 27 thousand rhinos remain in the world. A century ago millions of them were running on the African plains or in the rain forests of Asia. Nowadays, all 5 species are in danger of extinction. The survivors are also protected by armed guards. That’s right, armed guards protect the rhinos in their own habitat. For example, African black rhinos are extinct. We will never see them, not even in zoos. Hunting them for sport during the colonial period caused this rapid decline. Afterward, poachers trading rhino horns put incredible pressure on this species. And finally, the demand for rhino horn powder used in medicine making in China became a critical threat for this species. The Chinese population had reached 1.4 billion by 2015 and has a high demand for rhino horn powder to remedy cancer and sexual problems. Very soon, due to hunting, we will not be able to see a single rhinoceros on the surface of this planet. 

A fifth of land vertebrates could go extinct

A study of terrestrial vertebrate animals in 2010 examined the status of all 25,708 species. About 5 thousand of these species were in danger of extinction. Human population growth had accelerated the disappearances of species due to the stress it put on nature.

The studies of the World Union for the Protection of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) say that about 13{4a62a0b61d095f9fa64ff0aeb2e5f07472fcd403e64dbe9b2a0b309ae33c1dfd} of the 11,000 bird species that exist worldwide are in danger of extinction on a global scale. The primary reason for the rapid disappearance of birds is the destruction of natural habitats, climate change due to global warming, and hunting. When we analyze the threats, we see that the ongoing hunting activities in habitats that are shrinking due to global warming and habitat losses harm birds. Studies by scientists and the World Birds Protection Agency (BirdLife) reveal that 12 to 38 million birds are hunted in the Mediterranean Basin each year. Many of these birds get shot during their long-distance migration journeys.

Bird species decrease in Europe and Turkey

Europe hosts more than 530 bird species. Approximately 17{4a62a0b61d095f9fa64ff0aeb2e5f07472fcd403e64dbe9b2a0b309ae33c1dfd} of these species are endemic to Europe. Currently, 10{4a62a0b61d095f9fa64ff0aeb2e5f07472fcd403e64dbe9b2a0b309ae33c1dfd} of European species are considered to require global protection and are listed in the IUCN Red List as threatened or open to threats. Turkey has a total of 485 species of birds, at least 300 of which breed in Turkey. The species such as shearwater, crane, great bustard, Egyptian vulture, white-tailed eagle, marbled duck, white-headed duck, sociable lapwing, slender-billed curlew, Dalmatian pelican, European turtle dove, common pochard are now under threat in terms of their population numbers. The population of these species has noticeably decreased over the past 50 years. Their hunting must stop and we must make their protection a priority. 

The threat of illegal, uncontrolled hunting

When conservation scientists list the reasons for the decrease in the populations of these species, hunting comes first. Yet there is an insistence on land hunting until all species get dragged into extinction. This causes the surviving individuals of these species to be irreversibly destroyed by other stressors like disease, competition with larger and wider communities of the same species, and climate change. In our country, the Central Hunting Commission’s decision to hunt is disregarding concrete data and scientific facts. Hunts continue for some bird species that have been threatened on a global scale; this is one of the many footprints of the human-centered sixth extinction. On the one hand, when we say that we are taking the right steps, we are shadowing what we do right with these decisions. We have to be more careful about nature for the future…


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