Species going extinct due to deforestation – this is something you might have heard of frequently over the years from your social media feed or your science class. As you know, forests serve as natural homes to many wild animals. But due to human activities that lead to deforestation, many animals are driven out of their natural habitat, threatening them with extinction.
What is Deforestation and How Does It Affect Animals?
Deforestation describes the intentional clearing of forests and woodlands to convert them for non-forest use. Heavily deforested areas are usually converted to plantations, ranches, and subdivisions.
The massive destruction of forests and wild vegetation leads to the direct loss of wildlife habitat. This disrupts the animals’ access to critical resources such as food, water, and suitable breeding grounds. Deforestation also exposes animals to new threats like temperature changes and increased interaction with humans.
According to a National Geographic article, about 80 percent of the Earth’s land animal species live in forests. But deforestation threatens their survival, and unfortunately, it continues to endanger many animal species to this day.
These are just five among many species going extinct due to deforestation.
The orangutans are among the critically endangered animals due to deforestation. Orangutans are remarkably adapted to trees and rarely touch the ground, especially when they become adults. The loss of trees forces them to search for food on the ground, exposing them to the human threat
Orangutans thrive in the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia, their natural habitat. However, the ever-growing palm oil industry constantly places the orangutans’ habitats under threat. According to the Orangutan Conservancy, there are only about 80,000 orangutans left in the world, and sadly, up to 3,000 of them are killed every year.
Eighty-five percent of the palm oil in the market is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil producers clear forest areas in these countries to convert them into palm plantations. The illegal logging, clearing, fragmentation, and sometimes intentional burning of forests, continue to drive orangutans out of their homes.
Many species of big cats, including jaguars, lions, tigers, and leopards, are on the brink of extinction.
The Sumatran Tiger, for example, has declined to a mere 600 in the year 2017. Aside from the expanding palm oil plantations in Indonesia, these tigers are also in danger of poaching.
In the Americas, specifically Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, the population of jaguars significantly declined due to agricultural expansion. Jaguars used to roam in South America and even up north to Arizona. Sadly, jaguars are currently at only 51 percent of their historic range.
Meanwhile, lions in the savannahs of Africa lost about 75 percent of their natural habitat in the last 50 years due to deforestation and land-use change
The Borneo pygmy elephants are called such because they inhabit Borneo and are comparatively smaller than other elephant species. Still, these mammals need to live in large areas with sufficient vegetation to survive.
Sadly, habitat loss threatens the survival of pygmy elephants. Deforestation remains an issue on the island of Borneo, with 50 percent of its forest lost due to palm oil and other industries between 1973 and 2015. Aside from habitat loss, illegal snares also pose a threat to the safety of pygmy elephants.
According to World Wildlife Fund, the population of the Borneo pygmy elephants is estimated to be fewer than 1,500.
Koalas are also among the animals that can potentially go extinct due to deforestation. One might think that the iconic symbol of Australia is exempted from being endangered. Unfortunately, it is not.
Before the 2019 Australian bushfire, the koalas’ natural habitat is threatened due to excessive tree-clearing and drought. Koalas are then forced to go to the ground and leave their homes. Out from their natural habitat, koalas are at risk of being attacked by other animals or hit by cars.
Deforestation also threatens monarch butterflies, and their population continues to decline. As pollinators, monarch butterflies are vital to the survival of many ecosystems, especially in their migration route. The decrease in the species’ population could potentially affect the production of staple fruits and vegetables.
Aside from deforestation, herbicide on the milkweed plant, the monarch butterflies’ primary food source, also endangers them. Climate change also affects the temperature in their migration path, which heavily influences their survival.
How Can You Help?
Deforestation is an economic issue that may take decades to address. Economic development will continue, and it seems that along with it, so will deforestation.
As an individual, perhaps, the best way forward is to educate oneself about the issue of deforestation. Exercise consumer power wisely as well, and refrain from buying products that are unsustainably sourced.
Moreover, it is not yet too late to start planting trees. Volunteer in tree planting activities in your community and support anti-deforestation groups that also work to protect endangered animals.