WWF's Nikhil Advani and Wayuphong Jitvijak, and a park ranger in Thailand's Kui Buri National Park, where WWF is working to secure freshwater for elephants and other wildlife. Photo: Luke Duggleby / WWF-US

By Jennifer Fabiano
21 February 2018

(AccuWeather) – While most are familiar with the impact of climate change and rising temperatures on animals such as polar bears, few are aware of one of the biggest threats to endangered animals: the climate change coping mechanisms initiated by humans.

A serious, mostly unknown impact of climate change on animals is the way in which humans react to climate change, according to Nikhil Advani, a lead specialist on climate, communities and biodiversity at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Humans and wildlife compete for diminishing sources of water and, according to Advani, this is happening in many places around the world.

Advani has found that certain human actions are negatively affecting at-risk species, including giant pandas, snow leopards and mountain gorillas.

Due to rising temperatures, communities are shifting their activities to higher elevations, according to Advani. This movement causes people and agriculture to encroach on giant panda territory. Giant pandas, which are considered vulnerable, live at these higher elevations mainly in the mountains of western China.

The “human component,” as Advani calls it, is also an issue for snow leopards, which are considered vulnerable. Communities are taking their animals to higher elevations, and as a result there is increased competition for snow leopard prey as well as more opportunities to contract diseases.

The mountain gorilla, which is critically endangered, also suffers due to human actions. “We’ve found a number of reports of people entering the park to collect water because the rivers that feed their villages used to flow year-round, now during the dry season they dry up,” Advani said.

When people enter protected parks for water, they often set snares targeted for animals such as antelope but often catch mountain gorillas instead. “When your entire population comprises of 880 individuals, even removing just a few is a really big deal,” Advani said.

“It’s a very complicated thing but in many of these cases the driver is changing temperatures or changing rainfall, and so in cases like this you see human's coping mechanisms to climate change affecting species.” [more]

How human coping mechanisms for climate change are impacting endangered animals

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