Countries that Are Doing the Most for Animal Conservation

This article originally appeared on Andres Manuel Olivares Miranda’s Medium profile. Be sure to follow Andres on Medium!

Human-caused extinction has become a major threat to biodiversity on Earth. Calculating the exact damage is difficult due to wildly varying estimates on how many species there are, but according to the World Wildlife Fund, experts believe anywhere between 200–100,000 species go extinct every year, with the vast majority being due to human-caused threats.

Facing such staggering losses to their ecosystems and local economies, many countries are stepping up to address the perils causing their local wildlife to go extinct. Researchers with Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit conducted a study to determine which countries are contributing the most, and the least, to wildlife conservation.

Surprisingly, Botswana has been identified as the top contributor for animal conservation. Like several of the other top contributing countries, Botswana is a poorer African nation that overcame poverty and political instability to invest in conservation. Nations like Botswana rely heavily on large mammals such as elephants to support animal tourism, boosting local economies with safaris. Preventing negative environmental impact is such a priority that the number of people allowed to go on wilderness tours in Botswana is actually limited, even though these activities support much of their economy.

Some of these nations, like Namibia and Bhutan, have unique environmental protections written into their constitutions. Namibia was the first African nation to add conservation to its constitution, paving the way for other African countries to follow suite. Representing itself as the most ecologically sensitive Asian country, Bhutan requires at least 60% of their land to remain covered in trees according to its constitution. These trees offset more carbon emissions than Bhutan generates, making them the most carbon-negative country on earth.

Several African countries topping the list designate vast swathes of land as protected parks. Tanzania has set aside over a third of their territory as national park land, providing a habitat for a fifth of Africa’s large mammal population. Zimbabwe created a Parks and Wildlife Estate to oversee more than two dozen parks, gardens, and sanctuaries.

Canada and Norway are the only western nations that reached the top 10 contributing countries. Canada’s forty national parks require one of the highest budgets for conservation on the list, offering protection to polar bears and bison. Norway, the only European country to make the list, preservers lynx and wolves in their lush fjords.

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