World Environment Day, 2016: How animal extinction influences our health!

We all are aware how animal extinction alters the environment, but, what many are seemingly clueless about is, how this affects human health.

Zee Media Bureau/Udita Madan

New Delhi: Environment is most essential to human sustenance, since both are interdependent on each other. However, human existence appears to be a bane for the livelihood of the environment and those who thrive because of its being.

Wildlife trade is a booming business in many parts of the world, due to human actions like poaching, logging, etc., that not only harm the animals and their habitat, but is also one of the main causes of animal extinction.

We all are aware how animal extinction alters the environment, but, what many are seemingly clueless about is, how this affects human health.

Surprised? Well, it's true. By putting animals in danger, we are posing a threat to our own health.

As species disappear, infectious diseases rise in humans and throughout the animal kingdom, so extinctions directly affect our health and chances for survival as a species.

Exploring the issue further, below are a few points explaining exactly how this falls into place.

1. Food chain disturbance:

Because of the web of life, each species has a connection with all the others around it. The extinction of even some of the smallest creatures, such as types of insects and plankton, would have a direct effect on human life. The most immediate taregt of animal extinction would be the food chain. For instance, if the temperatures of the sea surface continue to rise, it will lead to a decline in plankton species. If this happens, it would influence marine animals like fish and whales, for whom planktons make up a part of their primary food source. If fish and whales have less to eat, their own population would fall, in turn causing a major chain reaction through the food chain, ultimately reducing human food resources.

2. Medicines:

We all depend upon medical assistance whenever our health suffers and in some cases, medicines are our only hope. Plants are the primary sources of many medicines, which rely on insects for pollination. However, plants will fail to reproduce if the insect population suffers. Fewer plants means lesser food for insects, thereby creating a cause-and-effect cycle that would harm all species involved.

3. Higher disease risk:

The environment is home to buffer species, which refers to those animals that are resistant to certain types of diseases. A good example of the buffer species is the Opossum, who has the ability to ward off Lyme disease. Buffer species help in the suppression of outbreaks and avoid their ability to spread to other animals and humans. However their ability to create the buffer can suffer a downward plummet due to loss of habitat and wildlife trade. Their eventual extinction will give room to those creatures that are often less adept at stifling the spread of disease or are more likely to contract such diseases, thereby putting humans at higher risk for disease.

This puts everything in a new perspective, doesn't it? This World Environment Day, lets hope for a better and healthier world. Because, a healthy planet is equal to healthy humans. It's time we learned this lesson.  

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