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Imagine a world without rhinoceroses, or cheetahs, or elephants, or humpback whales, or whooping cranes, or passenger pigeons, or Carolina parakeets, or ivory-billed woodpeckers….
Actually, it is easy to imagine world without the last three on that list. They are already extinct. Extirpated. Gone forever.
As we enter the 21st century, the human population continues to rise. Many of you may recall a time when there were only four or five billion people on the Earth. Now there are over seven billion, and by 2020 there will be eight billion. And we all need natural resources to survive—sources of food and water and raw materials. We all need land. We all need energy.
Because of those needs, we continue to encroach on other living creatures, different species that collectively form the biodiversity of life on Earth—the variety and richness of life.
This week, we are exploring efforts to restore and sustain that biodiversity in one place; Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, Africa. Most large mammals were killed off across the region during 35 years of civil war. Now they are making a comeback, and scientists are documenting it. In fact, in this week’s Critical Thinking activity, you will be participating in that process as a citizen scientist.
For our discussion this week, let us each imagine an African savanna ecosystem without one of the animals currently living there. To do this, go to the Gorongosa National Park Field Guide and select a mammal or bird pictured there. Click on its picture for a brief overview of the animal; you may want to supplement that information with additional online research. When you have completed your research, answer the following questions:
- What animal did you choose?
- What is its preferred habitat?
- What food does it eat?
- What animals prey on it?
- What might be different about the savanna if your chosen animal were to go extinct? How might its extinction affect plants and animals of the savanna, and or the savanna landscape?
- What arguments can you offer as to why this animal ought to be protected?
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