As world leaders convene during the 12 Days of Copenhagen, many animals are already in trouble due to climate change. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has identified 12 species looking for hope from the 12 Days of Copenhagen:
1 — Caribou. With rapid climate change impacting their circumpolar habitat, some types of reindeer, or caribou, have been pushed to the brink of extinction. Of 43 major herds that have been monitored during the past decade, 34 are declining; none so dramatically as the Peary caribou of the High Arctic, whose numbers have declined from some 50,000 in the 1960s to only 7,800 today.
IFAW recently petitioned the U.S. Government to list Peary and Dolphin-Union caribou under the Endangered Species Act. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/media_center/press_releases/9_15_2009_57511.php
2 — Dogs & Cats. As climate change progresses, scientists anticipate that natural disasters will increase. When these disasters strike, family pets are often abandoned and left to fend for themselves. The impacts of climate change-related disasters such as hypothermia, dehydration, starvation, physical injury, disease, and drowning threaten the lives, and cause the suffering, of many cats and dogs.
IFAW maintains a group of highly trained professionals ready to respond to disasters to rescue pets, as well as domestic animals and wildlife in need. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/emergency_relief/disaster_relief_saving_the_forgotten_victims/index.php
3 — Seals. For 10 of the past 12 years, IFAW scientists have documented below-average concentrations of sea ice off Canada’s east coast. Global warming is very likely to blame. Many types of seals rely on these ice floes to rest, give birth and nurse their pups; without the ice, newborn seal pups cannot survive. At the same time, seals are subject to a senseless and unsustainable hunt in Canada.
IFAW is working to combat these threats to ice-breeding seals. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/save_baby_seals_end_the_seal_hunt/index.php
4 — Polar Bears. Melting ice also has disastrous effects on polar bears because they are dependent on their Arctic sea-ice habitat for survival. A recent U.S. Geological Survey report found that the loss of Arctic ice could drive polar bears to virtual extinction within the next century.
IFAW is working to address other threats including commercial trade in polar bears and on-going trophy hunting of polar bears in Canada. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/national_regional_efforts/the_polar_bear_protection_act/index.php
5 — Elephants. Climate change models predict that currently arid areas will become even drier, which will make vital water and food more scarce for most of Africa’s remaining elephants. Many elephant populations are already confined to small areas surrounded by human development and agriculture.
IFAW is working to protect elephants from these threats and others, including habitat loss and poaching. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/save_the_world%27s_remaining_elephants/index.php
6 — Whales. The impacts of climate change on sea ice and ocean ecosystems will put many species of whales at risk. Arctic sea ice supports critical habitat for Bowhead whales, belugas and narwhals, who also rely on the ice for protection from predators. Changing ocean temperatures will impact food webs and could lead to lower birth rates for southern right whales.
IFAW is fighting to protect whales from these and many other human-caused caused threats, such as commercial whaling, ship-strikes and net entanglement. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/whales/index.php
7 — Grizzly Bears. In Yellowstone National Park, grizzly bears are losing an important food source, with climate change the likely culprit. Warming temperatures have expanded the range of pine beetles, which are killing off whitebark pine trees. Plentiful whitebark cone crops are linked to increased grizzly bear cub survivorship and decreased mortality.
IFAW supports grizzly bear rehabilitation efforts in North America and other countries. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/national_regional_efforts/grizzly_bear_rehabilitation_project/index.php
8 — Penguins. Extreme weather events are often responsible for, or a key factor in, causing large oil spills at sea, which are a major threat to penguins. Severe weather events are expected to become stronger and more frequent with global climate change, which will increase the risk of devastating oil spills.
IFAW has emerged as the world leader in oiled wildlife response, working with NGOs and governments in prevention, preparedness, and response efforts. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/emergency_relief/oil_spills_rescuing_animals,_protecting_the_seas/index.php
9 — Tigers. Wild tiger populations have drastically diminished, from 100,000 individuals at the turn of the 20th century to fewer than 4,000 individuals in the wild today, primarily due to poaching, depletion of their natural prey and habitat loss. Fewer prey species and dwindling forest habitat – which is further threatened by climate change – are forcing tigers in some areas to look for food in villages and areas with denser human populations.
IFAW works to protect tigers in the wild from poaching and habitat loss and to eliminate tiger farming and trade in tiger parts. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/fight_illegal_wildlife_trade/shortcut_of_tigers_under_threat_keep_the_trade_in_tiger_parts_illegal.php
10 — Walrus. Pack ice provides very important habitat for walrus, allowing them a place to rest and give birth, and providing them a platform from which to forage. Because walruses can only dive to depths approximately 90 meters, when the ice recedes north of the continental shelf, they are unable to dive as deeply as their bottom-dwelling prey is found.
A recent IFAW report, documents how climate change will impact walrus and other Arctic species. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/media_center/press_releases/01_17_2008_41360.php
11 — Lions. Climate change can increase the frequency and intensity of wildlife diseases. For example, extreme weather conditions combined with exposure to normally non-fatal canine-distemper virus resulted in deadly epidemics in Serengeti lions in 1994 and Ngorongoro Crater lions in 2001, wiping out nearly a third of the Serengeti lion population and nearly 40 percent of the Ngorongoro lion population.
IFAW programs in Africa and globally are looking for answers to many of these threats to lions, which are detailed in a new IFAW report: “Unnatural Disasters.” http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/media_center/press_releases/12_7_2009_59354.php
12 — Sea Turtles. Temperature is an important determinant of gender for most of the world’s sea turtles. Even a slight rise in global temperature will unnaturally skew the number of male and female hatchlings born, which could further imperil these already endangered species.
IFAW works with partner groups on-the-ground in the Caribbean and Latin America to help rescue and rehabilitate injured or stranded sea turtles. http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw_united_states/join_campaigns/emergency_relief/sanctuaries_vital_havens_that_save_lives/saving_endangered_turtles/shortcut_of_sea_turtle_standing_response_and_rehabilitation_program_in_uruguay.php