Crazy Animal Planet: Overpopulation Vs. Extinction


 Thousands of species are in critical danger of becoming a part of this animal planet’s history—swaying into extinction without another option—and thousands more are heading in the other direction, towards nearly unstoppable levels of overpopulation.

A dystopian future-earth is often portrayed as a barren wasteland in movies. It’s a planet void of life except for the layers of urban decay–the dark slums where the only creatures left are humans, a rat or two, and of course, cockroaches. But it’s the humans, primarily, who are left, gluttonous and exhausting all resources without a shred of guilt.

And while we are certainly seeing massive die-offs—the World Wildlife Fund estimates a loss of between 0.01 and 0.1 percent of all species every year—the flip side is just as grim. Populations of lionfish, kangaroos, zebra mussels and our beloved dogs and cats, are escalating out of control, and paint a different picture of life on earth in the not-so-distant future.

Credit climate change, the use of chemicals, and disasters like Fukushima for throwing the animal planet’s populations out of whack. It’s no longer unusual to hear of situations like these, reported by Collective Evolution:

5th May 2012 – 50,000 Fish found dead in a pond in Shenzhen in China.
5th May 2012 – Mass Bird death discovered in waste water in Finland.
4th May 2012 – 2 TONNES of dead Fish found in a River in Jinzhou China.
4th May 2012 – Mass Fish kill found in Muttar River causing panic in India.
3rd May 2012 – Dead Fish are washing up on shore of Lake Houston in America.
2nd May 2012 – Large number of fish found dead in River in China.
2nd May 2012 – Many dead Fish washing up dead in Village causing panic in Turkey.
30th April 2012 – Hundreds of Bull RedFish found dead in Alabama.
28th April 2012 – 1200 Pelicans found dead in Peru.
27th April 2012 – Mass Fish kill on Lake Elsinore in California.
26th April 2012 – Mysterious Death of possibly thousands of Storks in Thailand.
25th April 2012 – 11,000 dead Fish found in River in Kettering, America.
25th April 2012 – 28,000 dead Fish found in River in Strongsville, America.
25th April 2012 – Porpoises dying in alarming numbers, causing concerns of a local “ecological catastrophe” in China.
25th April 2012 – 4 Dolphins wash ashore dead at Bandra Bandstand in India.
22nd April 2012 – Thousands more Fish wash ashore dead in Pakistan.
19th April 2012 – Thousands of Fish, also Cows and Dogs killed in Pakistan.
17th April 2012 – Thousands of fish (30 species) dead in a creek in Tennessee.
17th April 2012 – Thousands of fish continue to turn up dead in the Zandvlei Estuary in South Africa.
17th April 2012 – Several thousand Fish found dead in River in India.
17th April 2012 – Thousands of Dead Fish found floating in Pond in India.
13th April 2012 – Mass Bees falling dead in Canyon Country California.
13th April 2012 – Hundreds of dead Fish litter Ocean Floor in Durban South Africa.
11th April 2012 – 300 more Dolphins found dead on beaches in Peru.
11th April 2012 – 14,000 Fish dead in Creek in Missouri.
9th April 2012 – Thousands of fish found dead in Lake in India.
9th April 2012 – 3 Whales wash up dead in India.

The Western Black Rhinoceros, which was recently declared officially extinct in the wild, is a massive loss to the planet’s diversity. To lose such an ancient, giant creature from our catalog of species illustrates the fragility of our changing ecosystems. But while the rhino has disappeared, the even bigger African elephant is becoming a nuisance in South Africa, according to Salon. Even though elephant poaching–which is still a major issue on the continent—continues to decimate elephant populations, South Africa is seeing too many elephants, thanks to successful breeding and reintroduction programs. It’s becoming such a problem that rangers in the area have resorted to birth control in order to mitigate the issue.

Head north from South Africa and you’ll find threatened gorilla populations in the Congo. Over in Borneo, orangutans are also struggling to keep their canopy homes as clear-cutting for the palm oil industry is an ongoing threat. But in India, langur monkey populations are soaring out of control. With no real predators in the urban environments, monkeys in cities like Delhi have become quite crafty at scoring food (and often lots of sugar), and are quickly becoming a health and safety threat. A deputy mayor in Delhi died in 2007 after falling from his terrace during an attack by a monkey. Tens of thousands of monkeys are trapped each year in Delhi alone, but it’s barely a dent in the situation, according to officials.

Jellyfish are now so abundant in the oceans that there’s major cause for concern. Without any real predators and hefty appetites, they could take out vulnerable marine species for good. They’re also a threat to power plants and difficult to kill off. “One reason jellyfish blooms are so disastrous is that they’re almost impossible to get rid of. In fact, cutting some species open actually creates exponentially more of them. When the cells of one species, named the Benjamin Button jellyfish, are released through post-mortem decomposition, they somehow find each other again and form a whole new polyp,” reports Quartz. Freaky, eh? And let’s not forget just how deadly they can be to humans. The box jellyfish is considered to be the deadliest creature on the planet.

Our future-earth scenario may indeed be void of pandas, polar bears, rhinos and blue whales, but it won’t be lifeless. While the human population is also on a dangerous rise towards a self-inflicted extinction, we also seem to be breeding species that excel at consuming our food supply and then some.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Related on EcoSalon

The Black Rhinoceros: My Time with an Extinct Animal
Breeding Endangered Species: Should We be Giving Pandas Viagra?
Banned: Costa Rica Says Keeping Zoo Animals is not a ‘Natural Experience’

Image: Ray Morris1


Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.