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Activity 15: Human being and Biodiversity

The pygmy elephant in the tropical rainforest

Objective: Getting to know the worldwide distribution of tropical rainforest as well as the threat of humans towards animal species in rainforests.
Learning outcomes: Learners are able to put texts and pictures into a context and analyze them. They’re able to describe man-made structures and processes.
Previous knowledge: none
Duration: approx. 35 min.
Materials / Conditions: internet access and resources
Methods / Techniques: describing, working with texts, discussing
Learning subject: Biodiversity / Module I: Introduction to biodiversity / Level: advanced learning

Pygmy elephants live in lowland rainforests and river valleys that hardly exist anymore. Therefore it’s not much of a surprise that pygmy elephants can only be found on Borneo, Indonesia. But even here, their living environment is threatened by humans.

1. Take a look at Material 1 and describe the global distribution of rainforest. Which region of the Earth suffered most from deforestation of rainforest over the last decades?

2. Use Material 2 to describe causes and reasons for rainforest to be destroyed.

3. With the help of Material 3, analyse the effects of loss of rainforest onto pygmy elephants and how this again effects humans living there.

4. What do you think, why doesn’t the government take more action in order to protect the elephants? Discuss with your neighbor.

Material 1:

Material 2: The rainforest is being destroyed
Humans are the main cause of rainforest destruction. We are cutting down rainforests for many reasons, including:
• wood for both timber and making fires;
• agriculture for both small and large farms;
• land for poor farmers who don’t have anywhere else to live;
• grazing land for cattle;
• pulp for making paper;
• road construction; and
• extraction of minerals and energy.
Rainforests are also threatened by climate change, which is contributing to droughts in parts of the Amazon and Southeast Asia. Drought causes die-offs of trees and dries out leaf litter, increasing the risk of forest fires, which are often set by land developers, ranchers, plantation owners, and loggers.
In 2005 and 2010 the Amazon experienced the worst droughts ever recorded. Rivers dried up, isolating communities, and millions of acres burned. The smoke caused widespread health problems, interfered with transportation, and blocked the formation of rain clouds, while the burning contributed huge amounts of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, worsening the effects of climate change. Meanwhile, Indonesia has experienced several severe droughts in recent decades. The worst occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998 when millions of acres of forest burned.

Material 3: The Borneo Pygmy

Once believed to be remnants of a domesticated herd given to the Sultan of Sulu in the 17th century, pygmy elephants were determined by WWF to be genetically different from other Asian elephants. DNA evidence proved these elephants were isolated about 300,000 years ago from their cousins on mainland Asia and Sumatra. Over time, they became smaller with relatively larger ears, longer tails and straighter tusks. Today, the pygmy elephants of Borneo are the smallest elephants in Asia.

Habitat Loss
The primary threat to these elephants is the loss of continuous forests. Mammals of their size require large areas to find sufficient food. The large blocks of forests they require are fragmented by encroachment and conversion of natural forests to commercial plantations. Logging, expanding agriculture, and palm oil plantations are reducing contact between sub populations, as well as shrinking the forest area available for each sub-population.

Conflict with Humans
Shrinking forests bring the elephants into more frequent contact with people, increasing human -elephant conflict in the region. New oil palm plantations in the area mean more human settlements, with some people setting illegal snares to catch small game. In the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary, it is estimated that 20 percent of resident elephants have sustained injuries from these snares.

Possible results / Results:
1. Tropical rainforest has decreased in all parts oft he earth but most of all in Madagascar, western Africa and India.

2. Decrease through logging, slash and burn cultivation, exploitation of natural resources, building large-scale dams, using tropical timber for furniture or paper.

3. Threatened by hunt and destruction of habitat; elephants migrate to surrounding villages and destroy huts and fields; humans feel threatened in their existence

4. Lack of governmental structures, corruption, lack of power, state cooperation with timber or agricultural corporations…

Related activities:

Author: Hirthe, Johanna
Aus dem Deutschen übersetzt von Jana Prokaka

en/learning/courses/subjects/s01/m01/advanced-learning/a15.txt · Last modified: 2017/03/01 12:29 by kherrmann