The jaguar lives in the world's largest rain forest--the Amazon Basin.  However the mighty forests he calls home are being cleared at a terrifying rate.

If some thought is not put into the way we construct and manage our human habitat, we may destroy our world.


Extinction - The permanent loss of a species when the last member dies.

Fossil Fuels - Substances such as oil, coal, and natural gas that are formed underground by the slow breakdown of organic matter.

Habitat - The part of an environment that supplies the needs of a particular species.  Beetles living under a rotting log, hawks living in trees, and deer living in open grasslands may all share a woodland ecosystem but have separate habitats.  A habitat is sometimes called a "niche."

Habitat Loss - What happens when an area no longer meets the needs of a particular species.  Also what is said to happen to an area that is no longer able to support its original community of species.

Short Term Management - The use of land in a way that removes its resources and leaves it useless.

Sustainable Management - The use of land in a way that can continue indefinitely.

Urban Sprawl - The result of uncontrolled expansion of cities and communities.

INTRODUCTION:  Where do tigers live?  In a zoo?  In the forests of Asia?  All tigers live in a habitat.  The jungles of India and the compound at the local zoo are both tiger habitats--places where the right conditions exist for tigers to live.  Habitat loss is what happens when an area becomes unsuitable for a species to live.  Your back yard may no longer be habitat for cougars and wolves, yet still be habitat for squirrels and robins as it has been for centuries.  Because different species depend on each other to survive, habitat loss for one species can mean trouble for many others.

THE SILENT KILLER:  One summer found a forest full of life.  Birds sang in the leaf decked boughs of oak and ash, and squirrels hurried by on endless errands.  Quail and rabbits clung to the hedgerow that ran along a long forgotten fence, vigilant against the foraging foxes and their hungry new family.  None of them paid much heed to the fresh sign tacked on a fencepost.  "Private Property: Horizon Development."  The next summer was scored by unsightly muddy roads, marred by gravel piles, and scented with a faint trace of diesel fuel.  And before much longer where foxes hunted rabbits and otters played in the stream had become a community of houses, each like the other.  What few trees grew there were brought in by landscapers, relying on stakes and wires to stand against the unchecked wind.  No one trapped the foxes or shot the rabbits.  No one drove the otters from the stream which still ran through large gray concrete fixtures.  One day they were there, and the next they were gone never to return.  Habitat loss is the silent killer.

HABITAT LOSS IS A BIG PROBLEM:  Every second an area the size of two football fields ceases to become natural habitat.  In a day that adds up to an area larger than New York City.  This results in an average of 137 species of living things being driven into extinction every day.  There are several causes of habitat loss.

URBAN SPRAWL:  Humans are a part of nature.  We have a right to a suitable habitat where we can live and work.  Yet if some thought is not put into the way we construct and manage our habitat, we will destroy our world and perhaps ourselves.  Urban sprawl is the uncontrolled expansion of cities and communities that happens when growth is not planned.

SHORT TERM MANAGEMENT:  This category is a "catch all" for a number of human activities that extract some resources and then abandon lands that are left unsuitable for other uses.  When wildlife habitat is mined for minerals and fossil fuels and not properly reclaimed, it becomes barren.   When forests are cut and new trees are not planted, or jungles are burned, cropped, and abandoned, they become barren.  Careful choice of land and appropriate sustainable management techniques can produce more timber and crops, and do so year after year, than short term management.  If our world is to survive, it will be due to sustainable management.

A WORTHWHILE GOAL:  If we learn to live within our means, we can provide a good living for mankind while preserving the wild places of the Earth for future generations.  This may involve making some tough choices, but the end result is well worth the price.