The Endangered Species Act was created in the United States in 1973 as a way of helping in the conservation of various species whose populations may be threatened. The Act takes into consideration the migration of animals, as well as the ecosystem they live in and what natural predators are out there. It is also important to consider what happens to the food chain and the various cycles of life involved when a species has become extinct. A species going extinct can often have a devastating impact on the environment it was once a part of.
The question of whether the Pacific walrus should be on the endangered species list has been knocked around for a while now and has recently been brought up again. So the question is: should they be on the endangered species list?
There are three subspecies of walrus: the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Laptev walrus. The Pacific walrus is the largest of the three subspecies, with the male walrus weighing more than 4,000 pounds on average. The walrus is the only remaining animal from the Odobenidae lineage, and they are thought to have been around for about 15 million years.
With humans, walruses have been hunted for their long tusks and their meat, especially given the immense size of the animals. In the 18th and 19th centuries, walruses were hunted heavily, resulting in international legislation outlawing the practice.
The average lifespan of a walrus is about 30 years, with a prime mating age of 15. Walruses rely on icebergs and glaciers for giving birth and mating in general. The ice is also the habitat for new walrus calves who rely on their mother’s milk for sustenance. In areas where the ice has thinned, the reproductive rates of walruses in the wild have gone down dramatically.
The biggest threat to the walrus population is not the polar bear or blue whale but instead is climate change. The Earth is getting hotter, the ice caps have begun to melt. This means that the natural habitat of walruses of every subspecies is now threatened with the risk of losing their home and are fighting for survival.
When it comes to looking at the conservation of walruses, the numbers are misleading. The FWS has estimated that there are about 280,000 Pacific walruses in the wild. Because it looks like there are so many walruses, the threat to their species is not taken as seriously as it should be. Calling for the protection of the walruses now, before the species has reached the edge of extinction, can give them a better chance of survival. Waiting until there is only a handful left would likely mean extinction for the walrus.
Right now, scientists are suggesting that the polar ice cap of the Arctic will have melted by the year 2030, meaning that there will no longer be areas available for walruses to reproduce naturally, forcing the animal into extinction. If they are given protection under the Endangered Species Act, there could be a more serious look at the polar ice cap situation and any solution to save the walruses while developing a realistic strategy to stop climate change before it does any further damage and perhaps even look for ways to reverse the damage that it has already caused.
Since climate change has not been taken seriously by all governments, animals like the walrus are threatened. The Endangered Species Act should add them to the list not because of their numbers, but instead because their threat is very real.
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