Conservation

Word Wildlife Day

Did you notice?

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Yesterday was World Wildlife Day…

It feels, that celebration went rather unnoticed.

The UN website says “The fate of the world’s wildlife will soon be in the hands of the next generation.” I must disagree. The fate of the world’s wildlife, the fate of us, and the fate of us in our hands, besides natural forces. I think we should do everything we can, to stop loss of diversity due to human activity, such as deforestation, overpopulation, and resource extraction.

On one hand, there are efforts to clone woolly  mammoth and the passenger pigeon from preserved DNA, on the other hand we loose probably more than one species a day.

I have never seen a passenger pigeon. It was once the most common bird in North America. Due to deforestation and overhunting, passenger pigeons disappeared from the wild. In 1914 the last member of this species died in captivity. Her name was Martha.

R.W. Shufeldt, Osteology of the Passenger Pigeon

At that time nobody bothered to breed  and maintain the species. That was a mere 100 years ago.

Have we changed our attitude towards preserving wildlife?

Barely.

World Wildlife Day goes by largely unnoticed.

We have bigger fish to fry. Grow the economy, border up the country, go to Mars…

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Conservation

Cecil, Echo, Romeo

The recent killing of Cecil, a popular lion, in Zimbabwe has more than ruffled a few feathers so to speak. Until now the debate is limited to big game hunting in Africa. Some politicians are ready to jump in with new legislation concerning the import of game trophies from other countries.

What about trophy hunting in front of our own doorsteps? We allow the killing, sometimes also referred to as “harvesting”, of big game in the United States, without any intent for consumption of the meat. A selfie, bragging rights, a head mount or a pelt are the only intent for killing that animal.

We still have states that encourage and reward the killing of species, such as coyotes in UT, that we consider a pest. As a result, the occasional wolf ends up being shot without any consequences to the shooter, since  the laws state, if you shoot a wolf mistakenly, you are free to go. Hence, Echo, the first gray wolf to appear in the Grand Canyon after decades was killed by accident. The shooter went free, the female wolf is gone.

Now, the first gray wolf in years has been spotted in Northern California. Wolves once roamed the Coastal Range from San Diego to Sacramento, Shasta County and the central Sierra Nevada. Through a government funded extermination campaign in the 1920s Canis lupus was hunted to extinction. Today, the gray wolf is on California’s Endangered Species List.

What does that all say? Times are changing. We don’t live any more in a world of abundant wildlife. It is simply unethical to kill  animals for “sport”. Declining populations, such as the Alexander Archipelago wolf should be protected, period. Wildlife management as an oxymoron. It would mean, we know the correct population size and distribution of prey and predator. Instead, we manage based on monetary and other interest, not science, because there is no such thing as exact science when it comes to wildlife management that includes culling.

I’ll stop here, fully aware that no big game hunter will read this or the following:

Wolves in California
Romeo: A Lone Wolf’s Tragedy in Three Acts
Key Population of Alaska’s Alexander Archipelago Wolves Nearly Wiped Out in 1 Year

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Inside Out

A poem

The wintergreen, the juniper, the cornflower and the chicory
The elm, the ash and the linden tree, the dark and deep, enchanted sea
The trembling moon and the stars unfurled
Well there she goes, my beautiful world

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds

I don’t know what Nick had in mind with this song, but it resonates with me. Reading the 6th Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert reminded me how little diversity we have at our longitude, despite the apparent wilderness. Then again, how many guests from the city are amazed to see a moose or the tracks of an elk herd or a golden eagle circling in the sky. It’s a precious world we live in, a narrow range of altitude and temperatures that allows us to live comfortably. We live in the midst of a mass extinction, species are disappearing for good every day, some before mankind even got a chance to see them, some we loose by our thirst for land and sea, by our need for resources and our lack of compassion and responsibility. Mass extinctions have happened before, naturally, without us. To put it into perspective: Until 300 years ago, the concept of mass extinction was unknown. Nobody knew that individual species, sometimes millions of individuals would disappear from earth because they could not adapt to changes in their habitat. Nobody knew that 30-80% of all species have disappeared several times in the existence of this planet. Until today, I believe, the general public is not aware of these “catastrophic” events.

If nature can cause mass extinction, why would we care about conservation and diversity? Why do we have national parks and wilderness areas? Why should we care about clean air and water?

Some of us certainly enjoy seeing wildlife in its natural habitat, some of us never get the chance to see a wolverine in the wild, or witness the amazing beauty of a corral reef… Some of us may not even care.

Which poses the question: What do we do as individuals and as a society with this world? Is it ok to simply care about the well-being of our generation? Or should we attempt to conserve what we have for future generations? Simple questions with profound answers. What do you think?

Maybe Nick was in a somber mood, when he wrote his song, or he was a realist, a visionary, anticipating the power of nature and mankind.
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Inside Out

The 6th Great Extinction

Currently 100 to 1000  species go extinct every year according to a recent study in Science. The scientists describe this as the 6th Great Extinction. It has happened before, 90% of all species have disappeared 250 million years ago. I am sure, some will say “So what. There is nothing we can do about. It’s nature”. Maybe.

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)

Loss of habitat was cited as the number one reason why species disappear. This is directly linked to human activity: construction and agriculture. So it is in our hands to do something. If we keep growing exponentially, we can watch at some point sparrows on the Discovery Channel archives, but not in the wild. I am sure, some people won’t mind. I think, this will be a poor, boring life when we have to go to the zoo, or turn on the telly to see wildlife.

I wish more people would go to their library and read this article.

The biodiversity of species and their rates of extinction, distribution, and protection

  • S. L. Pimm,
  • C. N. Jenkins,
  • R. Abell,
  • T. M. Brooks,
  • J. L. Gittleman,
  • L. N. Joppa,
  • P. H. Raven,
  • C. M. Roberts,
  • and J. O. Sexton

Science 30 May 2014: 1246752

 

 

 

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