Can an elephant kill an ant?


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On January 20, 2013, Ulrich Schuster from the Botanical Garden spoke to around 300 junior students at Chemnitz Children's University

    "Conservation of biological diversity - why is nature and environmental protection important?" - around 300 inquisitive junior students dealt with this question on Sunday, January 20, 2013. Ulrich Schuster from the Chemnitz Botanical Garden had lots of photos of different animal and plant species from all over the world with him. He started with the African elephants, which were shot for years as they destroyed the fields of the local farmers. Only 20 elephants were left when the South African government stepped in and established the Addo Elephant National Park. Several hundred elephants live there today. Since more space is needed, the government wants to expand the park to the sea and try to protect this part of the marine world as well.

    The junior students were very familiar with the various animal species: whether squirrel monkeys, northern gannets or hyacinth macaws, the children immediately had the right answer ready. Ulrich Schuster explained: "About half of the animal species on earth are insects. There are an estimated 10,000 trillion ants on earth that belong to 9,500 ant species and weigh about the same as all people in the world together Belonging to the species of insects, you can even see it in our tropical house in the botanical garden. " And he went on to explain: "The diversity of species is unimaginable. Scientists estimate that there are three to 30 million species worldwide. About 1.7 million have only been described. In Germany there are around 70,000 species and in Saxony alone 35,000."

    But also the plant species were not neglected in the lecture. Schuster showed pictures of quiver trees, strangling figs and giant water lilies. The biodiversity is greatest in the Amazon rainforest. There, among other things, the nature conservation association helps to maintain them. The Chelemha Cloud Forest was bought. This area was once shaped by the cultivation of maize. Many plants and animals fell victim to the fires through the years of clearing. Today there is a huge lodge at this point in Guatemala. Visitors and scientists from all over the world can vacation there and observe the animals and plants. The locals no longer earn their living from growing maize, but from tourism.

    Schuster also gave the junior students a detailed understanding of the importance of biological diversity. "It is the basis of energy flows, material cycles, soil fertility, air to breathe, for a balanced world climate and the build-up and breakdown of organic substances. And not to forget the basis of nutrition and supply with renewable raw materials and the source of sensual perception and aesthetic sensibilities ", says Schuster. Humans intervene very hard in nature, so that the rate of extinction is estimated at 50 to 160 species per day. 60 percent of all ecosystems have suffered major damage in the past few decades, especially the tropical rainforests. The native animal species are 36 percent endangered, three percent are extinct or lost. And why are plant and animal species dying out? Through lignite mining, roads and, above all, motorway construction, intensive agriculture through fertilization and the use of herbicides, climate change and recreational use that is harmful to nature.

    Those who want to get involved in nature and environmental protection can do nature conservation work in the botanical garden or in the nature conservation association and take part in mudflat examinations, a seal station or in the eco-camp. Further information at:

    The Chemnitz Children's University starts the summer semester on April 14, 2013. Then Prof. Dr. Matthias Niedobitek from the Institute for European Studies at Chemnitz University of Technology.

    Further information on Chemnitz Children's University:

    (Author: Anja Schanze)

    Catherine Thehos

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