Why Are They Endangered?
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN INDIA
MAJESTIC Bengal tigers, wild dogs, sarus cranes, ancient turtles, and Asian elephants—these are just some of India’s animal species in danger of extinction. Consider the largest land mammal, the elephant.
The elephant’s ivory tusks are very much in demand. Japan is one of the largest users of ivory, and there is similar demand in China, where ivory chopsticks are still popular. How has the demand for ivory had an especially adverse affect on the Asian elephant?
Some time ago The Times of India explained: “Unlike African elephants, only males among the Asian pachyderms, and just a few of them, have tusks. So adult tuskers are the main targets. According to the official figures, about a hundred [males] are killed each year in India, leaving the male-female ratio skewed.” Such killings have threatened the very existence of this species.
For a Compact Mass of Hair
Consider also the rhinoceros, the second-largest land mammal alive today. India and Nepal are the last areas of protection for the one-horned rhino. Yet, Pobitara Wildlife Sanctuary in the northeastern Indian state of Assam is only some 15 square miles [38 sq km] in size, a relatively small area to hold rhino. So the animals tend to wander into the agricultural lands nearby, where they may be shot or poisoned.
Man has invented a clever way of felling a rhino. Above the Pobitara Sanctuary run two high-voltage cables. The poacher hooks a wire on these cables using a long bamboo pole, and the wire hangs down close to the ground. Wildlife biologist Vivek Menon explains what happened when a rhino came in contact with the wire: “As the massive bolt of electricity charged through its body, it wheezed twice and with an amazing hastiness crumpled . . . The huge beast lay on its side, dead in less than a second.”
Sadly, the giant animal is killed for its relatively little horn, which weighs a mere two pounds! The enormous commercial value of the horn—a compact mass of hair much like human nails—has placed the rhino in great danger.
For the Love of Shahtoosh Shawls
The Tibetan antelope, or chiru, produces a type of wool called shahtoosh. It is so fine that a shawl made from it can be pulled through an index-finger ring. Such a shawl may cost up to $16,000, making it among the most expensive in the world. But what does this mean for the antelope that wears the wool?
“One shahtoosh shawl meant at least [the] lives of five chirus,” says The Indian Express. About 20,000 chirus from the Tibetan plateau are said to be poached each year. This occurs even though the animal is supposed to be protected under various endangered species acts. Moreover, in 1979 a ban was placed on trade in shahtoosh wool. Yet, since then, the number of chirus has continued to diminish.
For Skin and Bones
The survival of tigers and other wild cats in India is also under threat. Elsewhere, some subspecies of tigers, such as the Caspian, the Java, and the Bali, are thought to be extinct already. At the beginning of the 20th century, about 40,000 tigers roamed India’s forests. Over the years their numbers have dwindled. This is because their habitat has progressively been destroyed and because they have been hunted for their skin and certain bones that are thought to have healing powers in Chinese medicine.
Concerning the effect of the lack of proper habitat on tigers, the book The Secret Life of Tigers says: “Populations of tigers can only increase when the area of forests that they live in increases. When this does not happen, tigers control their own population by fatal disputes among themselves over food and territory.”
How do other wild cats fare on Indian soil? At a zoo in Junagadh, Gujarat, a visitor came across an empty cage. The sign outside the cage had a picture of an Asiatic cheetah and a message written in Gujarati, which read: “The cheetah became extinct in India in the 1950’s.”
What Does the Future Hold?
The future for India’s endangered creatures does not appear bright. The evidence is overwhelming that humans have been selfishly ruining the earth, which has included the destruction of much of its magnificent wildlife. What will happen? The authoritative word of God, recorded in the Holy Bible, indicates that the time is near when the following prophecy will be fulfilled: “The nations became wrathful, and your [God’s] own wrath came, and the appointed time . . . to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:18.
What will be the effect when the earth has been cleansed of all those who have despoiled it and its marvelous wildlife? What a wonderful time that will be! Humans will no longer endanger any animal species. This will take place under the rule of God’s Kingdom, for which Jesus Christ taught humans to pray.—Isaiah 11:6-9; Matthew 6:10.
[Pictures on page 26]
Some of India’s endangered animals
Crane: Cortesía del Zoo de la Casa de Campo, Madrid; antelope: © Xi Zhi Nong/naturepl.com