Thursday, August 18, 2005

And Jason was afraid of a bear-mauling...

Lions and elephants on the Great Plains?
DENVER, Colorado (AP) -- If a group of prominent ecologists have their way, lions and elephants could someday be roaming the Great Plains of North America.

The idea of transplanting African wildlife to this continent is being greeted with gasps and groans from other scientists and conservationists who recall previous efforts to relocate foreign species halfway around the world, often with disastrous results.

But the proposal's supporters say it could help save some species from extinction in Africa, where protection is spotty and habitats are vanishing. They say the relocated animals could also restore the biodiversity in North America to a condition closer to what it was before humans overran the landscape more than 10,000 years ago.

Now there's a great idea. Instead of treating the disease, let's treat the symptoms. But wait! This man makes a good point:
"It is not restoration to introduce animals that were never here," said University of Washington anthropologist Donald K. Grayson.
He's right - the word "restoration" does, in fact, denote a return to conditions that previously existed!
"I wonder how many calves or lambs it would take to feed a family of lions for a month?" Pilcher mused. "We sort of know what it takes for wolves, but something tells me we would be in a whole new ball game."
Gee, I'd say so. But I'm sure adding a few humans to their diet will take care of any deficiencies.
Critics also point to calamitous relocations of foreign species in Australia. Rabbits brought from Europe swarmed across parts of the Outback, and noxious cane toads brought from South America to control bugs in sugar cane fields killed native wildlife.

The authors of the new plan say they are not discouraged.
Golly, that's nice to hear. In face of the mountains of historical evidence that transplanting foreign species always yields unexpected results and, most likely, disastrous ones, these folks display remarkable sticktoitiveness.
...a larger American cheetah once stalked pronghorn on these lands, with both species evolving special features that enabled them to accelerate to 60 mph. Today, pronghorns rarely are chased, except by the occasional pickup truck.

In Africa, modern cheetahs are being exterminated as vermin, with fewer than 2,000 remaining in some countries. Relocation could help both species retain important traits, the plan's proponents say.
(emphasis mine) Okay, what gives? What makes traits important other than allowing the animal to survive in its environment? The world was constantly changing long before humans existed and organisms simply adapted or died - and they still do. We adapt to live. I'm surprised that any scientist who understands evolution could possibly suggest taking a snapshot in time and hope to preserve those traits as if they were inherently more valuable than other traits. It's one thing to stave off outright extinction; it's entirely something else to attempt to prevent change based on arbitrarily chosen standards.
Donlan concedes that lions would be a tough sell to Americans.

"Lions eat people," he said. "There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators."
Thanks, Captain Obvious. Thank you and good night.


At 8/18/2005 3:32 PM, Blogger Brian said...

great... when I'm walking about the plains, I'll have to look out to not step in the giant piles of elephant shit and worry about getting eaten by a lion.


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