Saving Endangered Wildlife

While some of us are planning strategies to be the life of the party, others are planning strategies to preserve the life of the planet. Saving endangered wildlife is an effort of the heart.

CBS News Correspondent Allen Pizzey reports from South Africa about methods being used to save entire species.

Magnificent creatures ruled their world long before humans began to measure time.

And they know exactly how to deal with humans who arrive uninvited.

It is hard to believe that all these animals could disappear in the next millennium, unless humans intervene.

The Cape buffalo is threatened by bovine TB.

The Cape buffalo, considered by hunters to be Africa's most dangerous game, is also the most endangered animal in Africa.

The buffalo are dying because of a disease from domestic cattle: bovine tuberculosis. To protect the future of the herd, the sick must be separated, then killed.

"There is a chance that bovine TB could actually get into other species, which would be disastrous," says Peter Hartley, chief ranger of Umfalozi-Hluhluwe Park.

These cubs will have limited mating choices.

It has already spread to lions that prey on buffalo. But there is a far more dangerous threat to wildlife. Male lions will have limited choices, when it comes to the mating game.

Encroaching civilization has split the animal population into isolated units, increasing the odds of inbreeding.

"In the old days, animals could migrate over large distances. They could then rest certain areas, migrate, mix with other herds, and so keep a wide genetic diversity," says Paul Bartels of the Wildlife Breeding Resource Center.

"With the environment changing, the habitats change, and animals need to have a wide genetic base on which to adapt to the new changes," Bartels adds.

So a new breed of scientists is trying something never before done with wild animals. In a makeshift lab in the bush, the technology of the future is being used to build a gene bank for preserving endangered big game for the next century, starting with sperm from the culled buffalo.

"Although our specific project looks at the use of artificial insemination, we certainly don't want to see a world one day where the rhinos breed by artificial insemination. We're just here as a sort of insurance at the moment," says Bartels.

"And I think we can beat this thing, but it's going to take a lot of work and a lot of effortand a lot of money," says Bartels.

Many conservationists believe that for Africa's wildlife to survive and thrive in the coming millennium, the game must pay for itself, and it can.

For instance, one spot that resembles a national park is part of a huge and highly profitable corporation, and the shareholders aren't just people; they're also the animals.

At game parks, tourists pay nearly $500 a day for the privilege of sharing the animals' world. They're also helping to protect that world and the animals from disease, hunters and overbreeding.

But those battling to preserve species for the future are fighting hand-to-hand combat, saving one animal at a time.

One rhino lost a foot in a poacher's snare. Fortunately it ended up at a place where scientists are hand rearing endangered species.

But how much difference can lavishing time and attention on a few individuals make even if those animals are as lovable as abandoned cheetah cubs.

"The more endangered a species becomes, the more important each individual becomes. And how are you going to be able to save the whole species if you don't how the individual functions, what its problems are?" asks Karen Trendler of the Animal Rehabilitation Center.

What has already been learned is that for the good of us all, humans and animals must walk together into the new millennium.


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