Human Footprints & Forest Losses Threaten Asia’s Wildlife: Study

Wildlife Population Decline

Since 1993, 63 per cent of the UNESCO Natural World Heritage sites are dealing with human encroachment in the form of roads, agriculture, infrastructure and settlements

Source: The Hindu

The balance of nature is being tipped and there’s no question that once this equilibrium is rocked, it will only lead to further plunders. According to a new study on direct human footprints and forest losses, Asia’s wildlife is especially threatened because of these new developments.

Senior author of the study, James Watson of Wildlife Conservation Society and University of Queensland, Australia, says, “The world would never accept the Acropolis being knocked down, nor a couple of pyramids being flattened for housing estates or roads, yet, right now, across our planet, we are letting many of our natural world heritage sites be fundamentally altered,” as reported by The Guardian.

Human encroachment

The Human Footprint map for 2009. PC: NCBI

Few of the sites that have been scrutinised are the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary which is in the foothills of the Himalayas and Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Manas Wildlife Sanctuary hosts many endangered species, including tiger, pygmy hog, Indian rhinoceros and Indian elephant.

The Komodo national park in Indonesia is home to about 5,700 Komodo dragons

While every continent observed this encroachment, Europe saw a decrease in human pressure on natural world heritage sites. However, this is not to be misinterpreted because the study did not include any acts of poaching, climate change or tourism pressure.

Tiasa Adhya, founder of the Fishing Cat Working Group and member of IUCN Cat Specialist Group, tells us, “We should be discreet about the kind of interventions harming our forests and rivers. Development calls for land-use intensification (industries, roads and railways, intensive agriculture and pisciculture) which has changed ecosystems and affected socio-ecological dynamics. Such kind of interventions are myopic and are not ecologically informed and over the long term does more harm than good. The time has come to abort such planning. Nature is not a resource and we are all part of the natural system. Anything we do to harm it comes back to harm us.”


– The worst forest losses are in North America and Australia 
– In North America, forest losses were estimated to be 57% 
– The Waterton glacier international peace park, crossing the Canadian and US border, lost about a quarter of its forested area
– Wood Buffalo national park in Canada lost 12%
– Yellowstone national park in the US lost 6%

The researchers also believe that North America forests are also suffering because of the pine beetle outbreaks, which is a result of the extreme climate change.

A quiet crisis playing out in US forests as huge numbers of trees succumb to drought, disease, insects and wildfire – much of it driven by climate change

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