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Marike Lauwrens
Six animals affected by climate change

Climate change has become an everyday term as more and more people become aware of it. But have you thought about what this phenomenon means for animals? 

Changes in temperature, and the other impacts of climate change, are becoming more apparent, and we’re already seeing the effects all over the world. For example:

  • Some islands no longer exist because of rising sea levels.
  • Natural disasters – like floods, hurricanes and tornadoes –are occurring more frequently.
  • More animal species are going extinct every year due to the effects of climate change on the ecosystems and habitats they live in. 

 

 

And, climate change affects animal species in some specific ways too. These are some of the impacts it has on them:

  • They have to adapt to the changing climate – which has made their habitats less comfortable, and sometimes even inhospitable.
  • They’re dealing with increases in water, air and solid waste pollution that affects the food they eat and the habitats they live in. 
  • Some animals have to alter their breeding and feeding patterns in order to survive the impacts of climate change.

If these animal species can’t migrate to areas with a more favourable climate, it makes it much more likely that they will become extinct. 

And this is the challenge being faced by many wild animals today.

Let’s learn more about six animal species, and how they are affected by climate change.

1) Cheetahs

Two cheetahs resting together in the wild.

 

The cheetah is the world’s fastest land animal and it’s facing a speedy decline in population numbers in the face of climate change. 

It’s currently listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN’s) Red List of Threatened Species. 

In some areas, the cheetahs’ prey populations are declining. As  a result of this, cheetahs have had to change their diets – and prey on other animals that live in the same environment.

And, a rise in temperatures has even affected this big cat’s ability to reproduce. 

Some studies have shown that many male cheetahs have lowered testosterone levels

In some instances, cheetah sperm counts were seen to be almost ten times lower than your average house cat.

And scientists believe that these findings are due to the higher temperatures caused by global warming.

Because the number of cheetahs in the wild is declining steadily,  conservationists are calling on the global community to study these animals, and gain a deeper understanding of their behaviours. 

In this way, they hope to add to the conservation of cheetahs in managed parks. 

For example, GVI volunteers gather data in Karongwe Private Game Reserve on projects that contribute towards cheetah conservation.

And you could make an impact too, by getting involved in GVI’s Cheetah Conservation and Research project in South Africa.

2) Giant panda bears

A giant panda bear eating.

Original photo: “Panda bear mammal” by wal_172619 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

This two-toned tree enthusiast, and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) trademark bear, feeds exclusively on bamboo. 

But climate change is reducing the amount of bamboo that grows in these animals’ natural habitats in China. 

Apart from being the bears’ staple diet, bamboo also provides them with shelter from the elements.

So the effects of climate change have a big impact on the well-being of the giant panda bear.

3) Green turtles

A green sea turtle.

 

Green turtles, like many animal species, are sensitive to the changes in temperature caused by global warming.

And, because a baby turtle’s sex depends on the temperature of the sand where their egg is laid, climate change has an impact on these turtles’ development too.

The warmer areas produce female turtles. So, with climate change causing an increase in temperatures, more females than males are hatching. And this reduces the number of male green turtles around.

This may affect the population growth of green turtles in the future since it means fewer mating partners for female turtles. 

You can support the conservation of this endangered species by joining GVI’s Endangered Turtle Conservation and Research program in Thailand. 

Or, you can travel to Costa Rica and add to the conservation of hawksbills, leatherbacks and green sea turtles.

4) Asian elephants

Volunteer with Asian elephants.

 

These floppy-eared mammals are particularly affected by high temperatures. 

This is because they need to drink a lot of fresh water to survive – and even more when the weather is warmer!

So, climate change and global warming make it more difficult for elephants to get all the water they need every day. 

Warmer conditions also make it easier for invasive plants to thrive and outgrow the elephants’ regular food sources – like bamboo leaves and bananas.

You can join GVI and build on efforts aimed at conserving Asian elephants while volunteering in Thailand.

5) Polar bears

Polar bears are affected by climate change.

Original photo:Polar Bears on Thin Ice” by Christopher Michel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Climate change and global warming reduce the amount of Arctic sea ice. This ice is important because it’s what polar bears live on and where they hunt for seals. 

So, as the amount of ice becomes less, this means that polar bears have less access to food, and their habitats are becoming smaller.

6) Adélie penguins

Adélie penguins are affected by climate change.

Original photo: Antartica” by nomis-simon is licensed under CC BY 2.0

These birds live on the Antarctic continent and feed on krill – shrimp-like creatures that live under the ice sheets.

Climate change is causing the ice in this area to melt. And, as the ice melts, krill populations decrease and the penguins have to migrate from their natural habitat to find alternative food sources. 

This makes it harder for them to settle down and mate during the breeding season – because they sometimes run short of food. 

How to make an impact on climate change and wildlife conservation

Climate change has made life trickier for these animal species.

And, in some cases, it’s pushed them up the endangered animal species list.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for wildlife. 

In fact, animal conservation efforts are up and running all over the world, and adding to the global movement towards reducing the impact of climate change.

We can all play our part in curbing the effects of climate change by contributing to conservation efforts. 

These may include creating more awareness about conservation, getting involved in conservation research, or participating in wildlife conservation projects on the ground.

GVI offers a whole host of programs where you could contribute towards the conservation of endangered species and the environments they live in. 

Take a look at GVI’s wide variety of wildlife and marine conservation projects aimed at reducing the number of animals affected by climate change, and take your pick.

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