The human plague

Time to create a DNA bank for threatened animal species.

The following article by Peter Worthington of the Toronto Sun puts the deadly threat of extinction for the world’s land and sea animals into horrifying perspective; according to professional wildlife biologists, ‘wild’ animals as we think of them will be extinct within a few decades.

Now is the time to create a secure DNA bank for all threatened creatures, to await a time when human overpopulation is no longer a threat and the world can be re-stocked by cloning, using the developing methods described in the “Mammoth” article linked below.

Humans have caused immense damage in the past, such as by sailors releasing rabbits onto islands to ensure plentiful food supplies on their return, and now animals stand absolutely no chance against remorseless human encroachment and the destruction of their habitats.

The Norwegian government’s Svalbard International Seed Vault project goes a long way to ensure that vital plant seeds are not lost, (see link below), and now it is time for us to do the same for our precious heritage of animals, from the smallest herbivore to the largest predator.

If we lose them, we lose a part of ourselves.

Jeff Goodall 

The cull of the wild 

Toronto Sun

Peter Worthington: Jan. 22nd, 2011 

Amid the plethora of issues that concern us today — Tucson, terrorism, the Middle East, Afghanistan, you name it — here’s an issue that’s even more disquieting.

Within the lives of most people alive today, wild animals will be extinct.

I’m not thinking of squirrels and raccoons — urbanized wild animals — nor am I thinking of elephants, gorillas and rhinos, which are on the fast track to extinction.

No, the animals whose fate is sealed are lions and tigers and the big jungle cats — predators and carnivores which compete with the human plague for their environment.

It’s sad to think of Africa, for instance, with no lions in the wild. More than a possibility, it’s a likelihood. National Geographic magazine reckons that in a relatively few years the wild African lion population (the last survivor of several lion species) has gone from 100,000 to 23,000 and dropping.

Even now in Africa, lions are best seen in game parks and reservations.

It’s similar with leopards and panthers — all predator animals, all declining in numbers.

If you’re interested in wildlife and can afford it, take that African safari trip soon, because they won’t exist in the future.

African game parks will be more like enlarged roadside zoos.

Laurence Frank, a University of California wildlife biologist, says: “The populations of all predators is plunging.”

Huge decline

African wild dogs, for example, the most intelligent and organized of all the predators (they hunt and kill as teams and are invincible) have declined in numbers from 8,500 to about 500.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has found that in recent decades, land animals have declined by 25%, sea creatures by 20%, fresh water fish by 66%.

The process is called “a great leap forward towards extinction.”

Efforts to save endangered species are successful in cases where there is no competition from humans. The American bald eagle was on the brink of extinction in 1984, but has been brought back. It’s a scavenger with no enemies. The same with the whooping crane, whose numbers were 22 in 1940 — today there are 400 in the wild.

For those who care about animals, few things are sadder than the looming extinction of the tiger. Once there were nine subspecies of tiger. Today there are six. Three species have been killed to extinction: The last Bali tiger was shot in 1937 — none are in captivity, the last confirmed sighting of a Javan tiger was in 1979, and the Caspian tiger became extinct in the 1950s.

Next to go (if not already gone) is the South China tiger. In the 1950s there were 4,000 South China tigers when the Beijing government declared them a nuisance to be slaughtered. There may be 30 of these tigers left in the wild, driven from forest areas to the mountains, soon to be extinct.

Body parts of tigers are valued for their (mythical) medicinal qualities: Claws for insomnia, teeth for fever, fat — rheumatism, bones — arthritis, eyeballs — malaria, whiskers — toothaches (or undetectable poison). And so on.

The South China tiger is the species from which all other tigers evolved. The last time one was seen in the wild was 1964. Some 68 are in various zoos in China.

Only 3,200 tigers

The Wildlife Conservation Society says only 3,200 tigers exist in the wild today — down from 100,000 that existed a few decades ago. Curiously, there are said to be 12,000 tigers kept as “pets” in the U.S. There are more tigers in the state of Texas (4,000) than there are tigers living free in the world.

It’s fashionable among some humane societies and animal rights people to deplore zoos and what’s described as ill-controlled “roadside zoos.” In fact, zoos will soon be the only places where once-wild animals can be seen.

In Ontario, one of the targets for some animal activists was the Exotic Animals Sanctuary at Picton, run by Joe and Pat Bergeron, until Joe’s sudden death from a heart attack a couple of years ago.

The Bergerons were ahead of their time in the treatment of animals. They established friendship with the animals they “rescued,” and this relationship coloured all their lives.

The Bergeron facility is no more. When Joe died, Pat found it too demanding to tend to all the animals, most of which have been dispersed to other zoos.

Sanctuaries like the Bergerons may soon be the only places where interaction with some species will be possible. Zoos, too often, are like jails for animals.

By the end of this century, there will be no such thing as wild animals — certainly not the big predators. The idea of a world with no lions or tigers surviving in the wild, no leopards, cheetahs, panthers, wild dogs, gorillas, elephants, hippos, rhinos — even grizzly bears and wolves — is depressing.

Even though most people never have the occasion to actually see one of these animals living free, the idea that they are out there is reassuring, even comforting.

It’s a state of mind that’s about to end.

See original here.

See “Mammoths and other extinct species to be reborn?” here.

See Wikipedia’s “Svalbard Global Seed Vault” entry here.