Copyright © 2007 Dorling Kindersley
Wildlife conservation is becoming increasingly important. Not many animals can evolve quickly enough to survive human-induced change, and few can adapt to live close to people. The best way to conserve wild animals is to protect their habitats. Some habitats support more species than others. The total number of species is a measure of their BIODIVERSITY. Areas with very high numbers are called hot spots.
The quagga was hunted to extinction in the late 19th century. Although once considered a separate species, it is now known to have been a subspecies of the plains zebra. This discovery led scientists to try to recreate the quagga by selectively breeding from plains zebras with reduced striping and a browner coats. The resulting animals look remarkably like the quaggas seen in museums.
The variety of life within habitats is known as biodiversity. Biodiversity is measured in terms of species numbers, which depends, over time, on the rate at which species evolve compared with the rate at which they become extinct. Biodiversity varies naturally between different habitats. For example, habitats near the poles, such as tundra, have much lower biodiversity than those near the equator, such as tropical rain forest.
Many wild creatures are closely linked to particular habitats. The Andean cock-of-the-rock is found only in mountain forests in the north of South America’s Andes range. If those forests were to be cut down, this bird would become extinct in the wild.