What Is Wildlife?

Wildlife is a wide-ranging term that refers to non-domesticated animals, plants, and other organisms living in the wild. Wildlife preservation, or conservation, is the practice of preventing the extinction of these species and safeguarding their habitats and ecosystems. A variety of government and non-government organizations are involved in this work. These include National Geographic Explorers, like Camille Coudrat and Titus Adhola, who are working to slow the extinction of global species; wildlife photographers, such as Thomas P. Peschak, who document endangered animals and bring awareness to these issues through their images; and wildlife biologists, who work to manage and protect wild species and habitats.

Wildlife is also the subject of popular television programs that introduce viewers to the world of animal behavior and natural history. The first wildlife shows, such as NBC’s Wild Kingdom and the BBC series LOOK, were studio-based, but later broadcasters filmed expeditions around the globe to capture footage of exotic locations and elusive creatures.

Besides being entertaining, these shows help educate viewers about the need to protect wildlife and connect people with nature. As a result, many people become interested in learning more about the world of wildlife.

The Wildlife Society serves a diverse audience that includes scientists, managers, educators, students, and others who manage and conserve wildlife populations and habitats. We support these professionals through networking and learning opportunities, career development, and ways to get more involved in creating a better future for wildlife.

Many wild animals have value in human culture. For example, bison were once hunted to near-extinction in the United States for their meat, hides, and other products. However, after the establishment of conservation areas and a system of hunting licenses, bison were able to repopulate in the United States. In addition, the elk and beaver were both hunted to near-extinction in the 1800s but have since been saved by conservation efforts.

Other species are used as food, fur, or pets. These are often hunted and fished to the point of near extinction, but they are protected by federal laws, such as the Lacey Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Many of these same laws prohibit the illegal importing of wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) works with other agencies to monitor and control wildlife trafficking and the illegal shipments of endangered species.

Wildlife also includes zoonotic disease carriers, pests of agriculture and lawns, and nuisance animals that damage property. These animals are controlled by government agencies, such as the USFWS and state departments of agriculture and natural resources. They are also regulated by international agreements, such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

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