Direct exploitation

Many of the world's natural resources have been over-exploited. Some resources such as fossil fuels are nonrenewable, and the best we can do is to slow our depletion of these important commodities. Other resources—such as water, timber, and wildlife—are renewable, and, if used wisely, they may last indefinitely. Unfortunately, people have often been careless about the conservation of renewable resources. The gigantic Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) was first encountered by Europeans in 1741; 27 years later the last individual was killed. The near-extinction of American buffalo (Bison bison) is an example of over-exploitation known to most U. S. school children. The last wild European cow (Bos taurus) was killed in Poland around 1630, and cattle-breeders still decry the loss of important genetic information. Similarly, today in Southeast Asia, at least three species of forest "cow" are in peril of extinction, and these are renewable resources that could still be preserved. During the early and mid-twentieth century, most species of baleen whales were hunted to the edge of economic extinction. Belated protection has allowed species survival, though recoveries have been slow. Great apes, such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos, are being hunted to extinction for commercial bushmeat in the equatorial forests of west and central Africa. In 2003, it is projected that some 2,000 bushmeat hunters supported by the timber industry infra structure will illegally shoot and butcher over 3,000 gorillas and 4,000 chimpanzees.

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