Three Rare Cat Species May Go Extinct if Not Better Protected

They say nothing lasts forever, but does that mean even species going extinct should not be a worrying trend? Even Charles Darwin expected some species not to thrive when he came up with the theory that only those organisms that adjusted well to their environment would have great survival chances. Unfortunately, sometimes it is more than just natural selection playing a part in the animals’ survival; hence three rare cat species may go extinct if not better protected. Here’s more regarding why the cats are at risk as we also delve into the cause and effects of extinction.

Why the Cat Species Face Extinction

In 2014, Mongabay published an article regarding saving Asia’s endangered felines. Among the most endangered cat species were the fishing cat and the flat-headed cat. The article cited that tigers and other big cats had been in the press for long, while small and medium-sized cats were neglected, yet their lives were also at risk. One conservationist, Christine Breitenmoser, explained that the endangered species needed more research and conservation attention because most cameras were set up on forest habitats to study tigers. The fishing cat and flat-headed cat preferred wetlands, shrub forests, and streams. Therefore, gathering enough information was a challenge, yet they are rare and should prompt more protection.

That was the concern 6 years ago, and today, nothing much has been done despite the three rare cat species that comprise the fishing cat, rusty-spotted cat mad leopard cat, being listed as “vulnerable” in 2016. The same challenge faced in 2014 of being unable to find them still exists; hence there are no concrete current population figures. All that is clear is that the fishing cat no longer has a place it can call home, and only less than 11% of the rare cats’ natural habitat is protected. The leopard cat’s population is, however, documented as being much steadier than the fishing cats.

The three rare cat species have different habitats. While the leopard cat and fishing cat prefer wetlands, low-lying forests, and shrubs, the rusty-spotted cat is likely to be found in deciduous forests. According to EcoWatch, all are victims of habitat destruction. Therefore, the habitats must be protected and increased in both size and number. While environmental factors have been concluded to be the main reason why the species face extinction, misunderstanding how to protect the species also threatens the species.

What Causes Extinction?

In the case of the three rare cat species that can only be found in the Indian subcontinent, climate change and land use are the main threats to their survival. ThoughtCo cites the last Ice Age as the ideal example of how much climate change can impact wildlife. When animals cannot adapt to changing temperatures or other climatic conditions, their survival rate quickly declines. The use of land by humans has also rendered most animals homeless. As we continue deforesting land for farming or development, we leave the wildlife without a natural habitat. It is no wonder that there have been cases of human-wildlife conflict in some places where wild animals prey on livestock and destroy farms.

Pollution is behind the extinction of 37 species so far, and as it continues to increase, so will the numbers. Reptiles are reported to be the most vulnerable due to pollution because of their susceptibility to plastic pollution. At least a million marine millions die each year from plastic debris in oceans. 48 of the critically endangered species in the US are, according to The Ecologist, expected to suffer from the effects of wastewater, energy pollution, pollutants, industry, and agricultural effluents and rubbish. The chemicals and other pollutants affect the animals’ metabolism, and once they are unable to cope, they die.

As the numbers continue to dwindle, the endangered species face a lack of genetic diversity. Genetic diversity helps to increase the chances of survival by preventing the effects of inbreeding. The fewer the animals are, the more likely they are to continue inbreeding, meaning their susceptibility to fatal genetic diseases is low. Since disease is also among the main causes of extinction, once such a species is exposed to a certain virus, the lack of genetic diversity will, unfortunately, facilitate its being wiped out of existence.

How Does Extinction Affect the Environment?

The Earth Institute explains the different ways that animals going extinct could impact the environment. They usually have a domino effect, with the apex species causing a much larger effect. For instance, according to the article, elephants consume different types of foods, which they disperse to different locations. As a result, lots of plants and trees grow to provide food and shelter for other species. Since the animals also consume vegetation, the risk of wildfires spreading is greatly reduced since flammable vegetation during the dry season declines.

It is not just animals that are affected; plants are threatened with the extinction of animal species. Animals and insects help in pollination as they move from one place to another. Without them, plants will have to rely on other factors such as wind for cross-pollination. As a result, the number of seeds and fruits is heavily reduced, meaning that even the wild animals relying on them for food face food shortages.

Humans, too, are not left behind as animals suffer from their dwindling numbers. Many industries rely on certain species to survive. Bees have been declining; in1947, there were 6 million hives, and by 2008 only 2.4 million existed. Habitat loss has been the main cause of the declining number, and the honey industry has suffered a major setback. The sea creatures also are affected by the warm temperatures since planktons have been decreasing. Without planktons, fish do not get enough nutrition; hence their survival hangs by a thread. Consequently, fishermen are most likely to come up with empty nets.

Photo via David V. Raju / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 4.0

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