For the Conservation Curious

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Goods News / Bad News for Species December 23, 2016

Although it’s the holiday season and I should write about cute puppy dogs with bows and ribbons, there were two stories I saw in the last week that I am compelled to write about. One is rather dreary, the other gives me a bit of hope. Since you’re supposed to tell someone two nice things before you break the bad news, I’ll start with the positive story…

Many news outlets discussed the discovery of many new species in the Greater Mekong Area of China. These included a frog that sings like a bird, a blind fish, a walking catfish, and 123 others. So to me, the fact that in 2016 we are still discovering new species is amazing, especially those on land. I’m sure there are thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of new species in the deep sea… but those will be much more difficult to find and catalogue. There are most likely myriad insect species that we don’t know about too, but again, their small size makes them more elusive. The world is still ripe for discovery.

And yet, Nick Cox, manager of the World Wildlife Fund’s Greater Mekong Species Program said, “The good news is new discoveries. The bad news is that it is getting harder and harder in the world of conservation and environmental sustainability.” Just as these species are discovered, they are under threat. That is downer statement number one.

Number two is that scientists are warning that the species extinction crisis is far worse than previously thought. CNN has a great interactive story (videos, charts, etc.) about it here. They discuss the five causes that are speeding up the process: climate change, agriculture, wildlife crime (i.e. poaching), pollution, and disease. That’s a lot to keep you up at night if you care about animals.

However, they offer solutions to help us slow the crisis. And I’d like to offer a thought or two as well.

  • People have the capacity to do great harm to the planet, but we have as equally great a capacity to help and heal the earth.
  • By recognizing the problems, we can develop solutions for them.
  • Iconic species like the rhino and elephant, and even the giraffe, which scientists say are in a downward population spiral, grab people’s attention and pull on their heart strings. By protecting them, we protect other less charismatic species too.
  • No matter how gloomy the news has been this year, and it has indeed been downright apocalyptic at times, we have to keep faith that things change… sometimes at a glacial pace… but they do change. I’ll hope for the best.

(Photo collage from The Telescope)

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Killing an Endangered Rhino IS NOT Conservation January 16, 2014

Filed under: Science — newdomino @ 1:15 PM
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This topic has been covered well in the media this week, so I was hesitant to throw my thoughts out into the blogosphere too, but the subject matter makes my skin crawl so much that I had to go ahead and write about it: the auction by a hunt club in Texas to give the highest bidder a chance to kill an ENDANGERED black rhino in Namibia.

rhino_wikipedia

Where do I begin? First of all, according to a blog posting on National Geographic’s website, this is only one of five rhino permits that the Namibian government will hand out this year. So not only is one ENDANGERED rhino facing its death, but many will! This is a species that numbers less than 2,000 animals in the country, a population crash of nearly 96 percent over the last century. How few individuals does a species have to have in order for all hunting of it to cease?

Illegal poaching for the rhino’s horn, which is used in traditional Chinese medicine, kills numerous individual animals too. Supporters of the hunt say that the $350,000 raised by the auction will go to protect the other rhinos from poachers. It’s all about conservation, they say. Bullshit is what I say! If these people truly cared about conservation, and not the need to kill something to show what a man they are, and put a rhino head on their wall, they would donate to conservation organizations that work in Africa to create new parks and reserves and to hire additional rhino guards to protect them from poachers. They would not put their money where their gun is. Using the word conservation in this context is just disgusting to me.

And don’t think that I am some ultra-liberal animal rights activist here, who is against all forms of hunting. I am not. I used to be, but as I have educated myself about hunting and the environment, I certainly see its place – at times. Humans have altered the natural landscape so much through the killing of predators like wolves and mountain lions, along with creating the perfect habitat for nuisance species like Canada geese and white-tailed deer, that hunting is one of the few viable options left. If people didn’t hunt deer, our forests would never regenerate trees, except for perhaps some invasive ones. So I support hunting where it keeps the ecological web in check. That is not the case with the rhino hunt.

We are talking about a species under threat from many angles. The black rhino is ENDANGERED, which means it’s on its way to being EXTINCT. That means it is gone for good. I may never see a rhino in Africa although I hope to!), but that makes the species no less precious to me. I can’t travel to Namibia right now and watch the rhinos like a hawk to make sure no one guns them down, but I can use my keyboard and the internet to spread the word. What this hunt represents IS NOT conservation, no matter how they spin it.

I will leave you with a very apropos quote from John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints,” not take only trophies, leave only shell casings!