Many of our wetlands today house our animals so they may mate and accommodate our resources so we may survive. We treat this land carelessly; polluting it and not becoming aware of our damages until it is too late.
This is notably true by the recent acknowledges extinction of the Alaotra grebe. The Birdlife International announced its extinction in May and how the introduction of alien fish to the wetlands killed off the species. We must learn from the extinction of the Alaotra grebe and prevent other species from this destiny of life.
The Alaotra grebe, scientifically known as Tachybaptus rufolavatus of the Madagascan wetlands joins the list of the Five Great Extinctions in the history of the planet Earth. The bird species was last spotted in 1985 and it has now been confirmed to be extinct (Walker, 2010).
Scientists claim that the Alaotra Grebe is the first extinction that has been caused by man and therefore becomes the sixth great extinction to be recorded in the history of the earth (Wu, 2010). The other five earlier extinctions include the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction that swept the dinosaurs from the face of the Earth (McCarthy, 2010). This extinction was characterized by 75 percent of the species being wiped out in the last 65 million years (McCarthy, 2010).
A meteorite that hit the earth is suggested to have resulted to this great catastrophe. Another example of extinctions was the Triassic-Jurassic extinction which occurred in about 205 million years ago and a number of non-dinosaur species got wiped (McCarthy, 2010). The dinosaurs were then left with minimal terrestrial competition. The last 251 million years also saw the vanishing of 96 percent of marine species and an additional 70 percent of land species (McCarthy, 2010).
This extinction was known as the Permina-Triassic or The Great Dying. Another prolonged extinction, the late Devonian took over 2 decades from 360 to 375 million years ago (McCarthy, 2010). The fifth extinction, the Ordovidician-Silurian was recorded as the second worst of all extinctions and it happened between 440 and 450 million years ago (McCarthy, 2010).
Alaotra grebe was a medium sized rusty-colored bird which inhabited Lake Alaotra and areas surrounding Madagascar. The bird was thought of having problems flying for long distances perhaps because of having tiny wings. The bird lived sedentary mainly inhabiting the lakes and the surrounding ponds. The Alaotra grebes started vanishing in 1980s when only 12 birds were spotted at Lake Alaotra in December 1982. In September 1985, two birds were spotted in Lake Alaotra near Andreba.
Afterwards in 1985, 1986 and 1988, some of the birds sharing same characteristics with Alaotra grebe were spotted although these birds were just thought to be hybrids of grebe and another species. Experts made surveys and visits to Lake Alaotra in 1999 and 2000 but never found any species of grebe or any of the birds of the genus Tachybaptus. This was an indication of full extinction since there have not been any direct observations that have been made on the species.
Chances of having the birds surviving at present are negligible since recent visits to Lake Amparihinandriamabavy which is near Lake Alaotra have shown no evidence of the grebe species surviving. As a result, officials of BirdLife International announced that the bird was extinct and declared that the species be included in the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of the Five Great Extinction (McCarthy, 2010).
This extinction is yet another whip to environmental economics as scarce resources such as biodiversity keep vanishing from our wetlands. In the future, these resources will no more be seen by our children as more extinction continues to take place. Birds form an important part of our environments in sustaining the food web and acting as tourist attractions thus earning income. The vanishing of Alaotra grebe means that these benefits are no more going to be realized in the future.
Madagascar and Environmental Economics
The Madagascar wetlands form an essential site for birds as well as other biodiversity. The wetlands are a source of food and water to the Madagascan populations and to millions of people globally. However, these wetlands are very fragile environments and can be polluted and disturbed easily as in the case of Madagascar (Wu, 2010).
Madagascar has been an example so that the world can learn that human actions on biodiversity can have grave consequences to the environment and the world economy (Wu, 2010). Elsewhere in Cuba, people introduced alien species and the Zapata rail is feared of extinction (Patt, 2010). The introduction of exotic fish and mongooses has had serious impacts on the Zapata rail and joins the Madagascan case of Alaotra grebe extinction (McCarthy, 2010).
Fishermen in Madagascar are blamed to have caused the serious environmental damage by covering much of the lake with nylon nets. The monofilament nylon nets have the potential of killing diving waterbirds. While the fishermen in Madagascar introduced the nets after significant extinction of Alaotra grebe had occurred, this action is blamed to have led to further extinction of the remaining grebe species.
The goal of the government in Madagascar as well as in the entire world in the protection of biodiversity has been missed. According to policy makers and scientists, the vanishing of the rusty-colored bird, Tachybaptus rufolavatus was due to the failure of the government of Madagascar to prioritize an important aspect of conservation of the delicate and sensitive biodiversity.
The extinction of the grebe species has significant effect to the country’s economy. It can be said that the plan for the people of Madagascar to have more fish by killing the grebe species was a missed target.
While it is a common practice for governments to check for solutions that will mitigate pests and diseases affecting the fish industry, the introduction of carnivorous fish was a missed target according to Gross and Williams (2010). The economists may agree that the action was reasonable as the fish pests were eliminated but the same argument must be exposed to political and ethical criticism.
It however seems that nothing makes people persuaded other than financial gain and the people of Madagascar were easily lured with financial benefits. As a consequence, the helpless grebe species continued to be decreased to extinction level for the sake of money obtained from fish trading.
Environmental economists in deed differ from other financial economists in one aspect: the valuing of biodiversity among all other benefits. While the actions to kill the birds using nylon gillnets and drowning them could result to more fish as the competition pressure would be reduced, environmental economists would view this as a loss to the entire biodiversity.
The importance of wild nature for societies and industries is frequently mentioned as a political argument and an additional interest to protect our biodiversity. It was necessary for the government of Madagascar to have this approach of environmental economists to save the dear bird species Alaotra grebe.