AR-News: Fwd: Value and Fate of Large Predators
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Mon Sep 29 18:49:18 EDT 2003
>Just another flavor of meat
>Author David Quammen talks about what the human race will
>lose if we dont allow the big alpha predators
> tigers, lions, bears and crocodiles to survive.
>And OK, maybe they need to eat one of us once in a while.
>- - - - - - - - - - - -
>By Katharine Mieszkowski
>Sept. 24, 2003 | Last weekend, an American soldier killed a
>rare Bengal tiger in its cage in the Baghdad zoo.
>The caged tigers capital offense: biting a drunken G.I. when he
>baited the animal by sticking his arm in its cage in an attempt to
>feed it. The tiger reportedly tore off one of the G.I.s fingers
>and mauled his arm, before another soldier shot it in the head
>Fatal encounters with carousing Americans troops aside, by the
>year 2150 zoos and test tubes will likely be the only places that
>Bengal tigers and all other man-eating predators will survive,
>according to natural history writer David Quammen in his new
>book, Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles
>of History and the Mind.
>Quammen eschews zoological melodrama or predator
>pornography, as he dubs the pulpy genre that encompasses
>most true-life tales of encounters between humans and the
>carnivores that occasionally eat them. His book is less monster
>bloodbath than an effort to understand how humans and their
>sometime predators still (barely) coexist today, and what exactly
>will be lost if the big cats, bears and crocodiles go extinct.
>To take stock of the state of human-predator relations, Quammen
>traveled to lion territory in Indias Gir forest, the saltwater
>crocodile lands of northern Australia, brown bear habitat in
>the Romanian mountains, and Siberian tiger country in the
>Russian Far East.
>He went crocodile harpooning with aboriginal hunters in
>Australia and traveled across the snow with a Russian biologist
>who once spent 45 days on skis tracking a single Siberian tiger,
>feeding on leftovers from the tigers kills when his own food
>supplies ran low.
>In a phone interview with Salon, Quammen talked about how
>slaying all our monsters could soon put us on the top of the food
>chain, and why we need them around to remind us that were
>just another flavor of meat.
>When youre in the Russian Far East, one native Udege man
>tells you that hes personally killed four Siberian tigers. There
>are only a few hundred of these tigers left in the world. You
>write that hearing this was like a splash of cold water, but
>that since youve been traveling to investigate alpha-predator
>populations that share land with humans, youve learned that the
>the world is full of cold water and youve often found yourself
>chilly and wet. What do you mean by that?
>I started the book project partially because I was very interested
>in what big predators meant to the people who live closest to
>them, who live in the highest jeopardy.
>I suppose I had a preconception, as maybe a lot of people
>would, that native people would have sort of a mystic resignation
>and spiritual acceptance of these big predators, that theyd say:
>Oh, theyre part of the land. Theyre part of the world.
>They represent gods to us. Theyre spiritual beings, and we
>have found ways to adapt.
>And some of the native people told me things like that. One
>Romanian shepherd said: A forest without bears is empty.
>Thats a wonderful statement, but I also heard people say:
>To hell with the bear. Kill them all.
>Or, theyd say, Oh, the tiger? Ive killed four of them, and Id
>kill more of them if I had the chance, because they compete
>with me for the red deer and the wild boar.
>Which humans have the most to fear from these alpha predators?
>The people who suffer the most inconvenience, the most danger,
>the most misery from big predators, the ones who pay the costs
>of big predators, are generally the poor and the dispossessed of
>land. Theyre native people who live very close to the landscape
>with a very small margin of safety.
>The difficult question is: How do we as a world society rearrange
>things so that its not the poor people who are paying the costs
>of big predators and the distant, affluent people in cities across
>oceans who enjoy the benefits of the continued existence of big
>predators? Namely, the aesthetic sense that these charismatic
>creatures are still out there, and the ecological benefits from the
>fact that theyre still balancing these ecosystems.
>Are there any good examples of that kind of rearrangement?
>Only a very few pilot projects or beginning programs that need
>to be built.
>One of them is in the Northern Territory of Australia, where
>Aboriginal people are being allowed to begin harvesting crocodiles
>Those people live out there in crocodile habitat, and if anybody
>is going to be killed by a saltwater crocodile, theyre sort of the
>first in the crosshairs. But now theyre also being allowed to
>harvest crocodile skin.
>Theres a community organization, a group of young guys
>known as the Djelk Rangers, who collect crocodile eggs for
>commercial sale of hatchlings and who occasionally harpoon
>crocodiles for sale of the skins. Theyre not using exactly
>traditional methods, but theyre using half-traditional methods
>in that theyre harpooning instead of using high-powered rifles.
>In the book, you also mention that youre uneasy with the idea
>that the only way predators can be protected is if theyre
>hunted, whether theyre the bears in Romania or the crocodiles
>of Australia. What about that idea bothers you?
>There are some very intelligent and experienced people who
>would argue that if you want to save any endangered species
>on the planet, youve got to put a commercial value on it. And
>that will provide an incentive for people to protect the habitat
>and to allow this thing to continue to reproduce, and therefore
>that it will continue to exist. That its more effective than simply
>saying: Its off limits. Its completely protected. Were going
>to lock people away from it. Because then it has no commercial
>value, and the protections will erode and be circumvented and
>the critter will suffer decline and eventual extinction.
>So, the forest will be harvested for timber if you dont give people
>a reason to preserve the forest because you can get something
>else valuable out of it, like bears for trophy hunting.
>Right. Good and intelligent people make that argument. Im not
>completely comfortable with that argument, partly on aesthetic
>as much as rational grounds, and partly because I dont think it
>necessarily applies to all types of species.
>For instance, the Siberian tiger in the Russian Far East. Its a very
>different kind of creature from the saltwater crocodile. It reproduces
>much more slowly. It needs big areas of land for habitat that is
>going to be very valuable in other ways for other potential partial
>And Im just not persuaded that the notion of auctioning off the
>rights to kill tigers, and then distributing the money to the local
>people, is the best way to preserve this ecosystem with the tiger
>There are other cases where the commercial-harvest argument has
>been taken to an extreme, like the bears of Romania, where its
>being used and its working in the sense that there are now 10
>times as many brown bears in the mountains of Romania as there
>are in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
>Why are there so many bears there?
>The Carpathian Mountains in Romania now support a little over
>5,000 brown bears. The greater Yellowstone ecosystem
>supports maybe 400 or 500. Romania, which we think of as
>this blighted Eastern bloc, post-communist country how could
>it possibly have 5,000 brown bears?
>The answer is complicated. It partially has to do with Nicolae
>Ceausescu having been dictator there for 25 years and fancying
>himself a great bear hunter. It partially has to do with the
>Romanian forest departments long tradition of nurturing bears,
>essentially farming bears. And it has to do now with the
>commercial value of those bears when the hunting rights are
>sold to foreign big-game hunters.
>So, bear trophy skins are now an important export product
>from Romania. There are these 2,200 hunting areas in the
>Romanian forest, many of which contain bears and bear habitat.
>In each area there is a gamekeeper responsible for giving the
>bears supplemental feed, for observing the bears behavior,
>and then essentially for targeting the bears and delivering them,
>almost the way a pimp would, to these foreign hunters.
>And its not hunting in the sense that we would consider hunting
>in the U.S. Its baiting them to artificial food and then shooting
>them from a blind.
>So is autocratic oppression good for alpha predators?
>Thats one of the ironies. In this case, and probably in several
>other cases, democracy is not conducive to conservation, and
>autocracy has been conducive to conservation. Then, how are
>we liberal, right-thinking greenies supposed to feel about that?
>A little bit uncomfortable.
>This is a California question, because Im in California. Do you
>think that there is any chance that grizzly bears could ever come
>back to the state?
>Its not impossible. Some people thought it would be impossible
>to bring wolves back to Yellowstone, and then there were a few
>persistent, very patient, very politic folks who did the necessary
>political work on the ground to make that happen. There are
>people now working on something called the Wildlands Project,
>who are trying to knit together the last well-preserved wild lands
>throughout North America into a continuous sort of network of
>interconnected reserves, protected areas and corridors.
>One of their projects is the so-called Y-to-Y project, the
>Yellowstone to Yukon project, which involves connecting land
>between the great national parks and wilderness areas to establish
>a continuous corridor of livable wild landscape for big and small
>animals all the way from the Yellowstone ecosystem to the Yukon.
>There are also networks in California that could be reconnected.
>Reconnecting wild landscapes is an important part of preserving
>any big creature, but especially big predators.
>Beyond conserving land, you argue that if these predators are
>going to survive, we have to learn to live among them, not just
>preserve separate areas for them.
>Right. We have to find models and frames of mind that allow us to
>share landscape with these creatures, because we want so much
>landscape, and because they need so much landscape. The cases
>that I focused on were cases where there had been an overlap
>between human populations and predator populations. And I tried
>to suggest that its possible, but it involves some very particular
>arrangements and also some altered expectations.
>One thing about big predators and humans is that livestock is
>where the rubber meets the road. Thats where the conflict
>appears more quickly and more severely than anywhere else.
>So, in North America, for instance, the reason that grizzlies have
>been eliminated from most of their range, and that wolves were
>almost entirely exterminated, and that cougars were depleted for
>a while, although theyve come back, was not really because
>humans were so afraid of these creatures, but because we had
>populated the landscape with exceptionally stupid, vulnerable
>preynamely, sheep and cows.
>It was in trying to protect our sheep and cows that we decided
>that the big predators had to be killed. Predators were doing
>what was natural, and that was preying on the big vulnerable
>animals, since we killed off the bison and essentially replaced
>large herbivores in a lot of these areas with our own domesticated
>herbivores, and the predators preyed on what was there
>sheep and cows. And therefore they had to die.
>Romania offers a model of how people can raise sheep in bear
>country without using guns, without using poison, without
>exterminating the bear.
>How do they do it?
>First of all they use good, really nasty, dangerous dogs. Second,
>they have a lot of shepherds out there living with the sheep, so
>its labor intensive, unlike sheep ranching in the Western U.S.
>And third, they have a little bit more of a stoic acceptance of
>the fact that they will lose a sheep occasionally. That does not
>justify the feeling that the bears must all be exterminated and the
>government owes them a predator-free landscape. They have
>essentially a different conception of what is acceptable risk.
>You express distaste at the prospect of hordes of eco-tourists
>overrunning the breeding grounds of the saltwater crocodiles in
>Australia. Is there any good role for eco-tourism in saving these
>I think eco-tourism is very valuable in some situations. My only
>quarrel is that it gets oversold. Its sometimes thought of as the
>solution for every conservation situation around the world.
>One of the places that it fits extremely well for big predators,
>among others, is in East Africa, because its mostly savannah.
>Its very open. The lions and the cheetah and the leopard are
>out there, visible, hunting on the savannah, stalking these big
>herds of native ungulates. And it really lends itself to eco-tourism,
>because people can go there and they can see a lot, sitting in a
>Land Rover as it drives across the savannah as it follows a family
>of cheetah or a pride of lions while they chow down on a
>But its very different, for instance, in the case of the tiger in the
>Russian Far East. I cant imagine thats going to be an
>eco-tourism spot, because there are Udege people who I talked
>to out there who have hunted and trapped in those areas for 40
>years, and whove never seen a tiger, despite the fact that they
>know that the tigers have been around them all the time.
>If we do lose these alpha predators, what are some of the likely
>Large predators, in many cases, seem to be what the ecologists
>call a keystone species. My analogy is the keystone in a stone
>arch: Its that wedge stone at the top that balances the opposing
>gravitational forces, and if you pull the keystone out, then the arch
>collapses. If you eliminate the keystone species, its absence has
>effects throughout the ecosystem. In the case of a big predator,
>you might eliminate a big predator thats preying on middle-size
>So the population of middle-size predators booms, and they are
>preying on ground-nesting birds. Suddenly, you find that your
>populations of ground-nesting birds are going extinct. Why?
>Because youve eliminated the big predators.
>Thats one of the sorts of ecological ramifications, but Im as
>interested in the spiritual and the psychological consequences of
>the elimination of these things as I am in the ecological
>What do you see as the psychological and spiritual
>Big predators have for more than a million years reminded us
>humans that were part of a food chain. Were not separate
>from nature, were not above nature, were not detached from
>nature, were part of nature. Were part of a food chain and not
>necessarily always the top link on that food chain.
>Theyve reminded us that, among other things, were just another
>flavor of meat. You take away these big predators, and suddenly
>that reminder disappears. I think that already we have enough
>tendency to believe that human civilization and nature are two
>separate things. And we dont need any more reasons, excuses
>or license to embrace that false perception. The loss of the big
>predators is a huge step toward losing that awareness that were
>a part of nature.
>Why do you think we have a greater fear of being eaten by a
>grizzly or a crocodile than being trampled to death by an elephant?
>Whats so bad about being meat?
>Maybe its a more vivid reminder that when youre dead, youre
>dead, and your molecules dissipate and go their ways. Whether
>or not you believe in an afterlife, its a little bit scary for your
>corpse to be dishonored. And theres no more vivid form of
>dishonoring the corpse than predation by a man-eater. That
>sense of the importance of honoring the corpse goes back
>hundreds, thousands, of years in all sorts of different cultures.
>And so if a man-eater kills you and eats you, its sort of the
>Why do you predict that by 2150 all the big predators will be
>I dont have a crystal ball, but if the human population increases
>from 6 billion to 11 billion, as projected by the U.N. population
>division, I just dont see any large enough, wild enough spaces
>to support genetically viable populations of these big predators.
>Sadly, I think that theyll be gone.
>I dont think that theyll be gone entirely. Well have them in zoos,
>and well have them in test tubes. But there will be no place where
>you can have the experience of walking out through forest and
>subjecting yourself to the wonderful, terrible, titillating sense that
>youre a potential prey item for a creature thats bigger and scarier
>and more majestic than you are.
>I think that that will be really bad and depressing and boring for
>It will be like a sanitized-for-your-protection world.
>The planet will be more convenient and safer in the most basic,
>reductionist sense. It will also be uglier, more boring and more
>- - - - - - - - - - - -
>About the writer
>Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon Technology.
>Man drives king of the jungle to brink of extinction
>Man drives king of the jungle to brink of extinction
>By Robert Uhlig, Correspondent, The Telegraph
>Lions are frighteningly close to extinction, wildlife experts warn
>Twenty years ago, 230,000 roamed Africa, but today only 23,000 remain,
>of them harbouring feline Aids and bovine tuberculosis.
>Dr Laurence Frank, a wildlife biologist at the University of California,
>that populations of all African predators are "plummeting" but says
>His findings, published today in New Scientist, which warns that 23,000
>"shockingly small number", are backed by Tricia Holford, the campaign
>manager for big cats at the Born Free Foundation, a wildlife charity.
>Dr Frank says that, until recently, no one had noticed the population
>lions. Although they appeared to be thriving in reserves, once outside
>they often attack livestock and have been decimated by ranchers, farmers
>A study in the Laikipia region of central Kenya found that a lion
>livestock worth £200 a year on average, equivalent to one cow or three
>With better husbandry, solid gates and fences or a night guard, losses
>but Dr Frank says: "Bullets and poison are always cheaper than good
>A century after Europeans arrived in Africa, predator numbers are in
>"People know about elephants, gorillas and rhinos, but they seem
>unaware that these large carnivores are nearing the brink," Dr Frank
>"People have always killed predators but there's only so much damage you
>do with spears and shields. Now everyone has got rifles and poisons."
>Cheetahs once ranged over most of Africa, central and western Asia.
>there are fewer than 15,000. Wild dogs, which used to be abundant in
>sub-saharan Africa, now number less than 5,500.
>In Asia, as few as 300 Asiatic lions remain in the wild in a small
>in northern India. As in Africa, they have fallen victim to hunting and
>Miss Holford of the Born Free Foundation said that with such small
>in reserves, male lions frequently failed to find new prides with which
>Those that did mate often had lower resistance to feline Aids or passed
>bovine TB from cows they had attacked.
>She said the only solution might be "wildlife corridors" to link
>Dr Frank believes that if lions are to survive, there must be healthy
>living outside the parks. "The problem is not so much that predators
>but that they kill livestock."
>He says that in the Laikipia Predator Project, ranchers put up with
>attacking their livestock because they are an attraction for tourists.
>It is the only place in Kenya where wildlife is increasing. "Almost
>else, big carnivores have had it already," Dr Frank says. "In Africa,
>it's not too
>late to save the situation."
>I am in favour of animal rights as well as human rights.
>That is the way of a whole human being ...
>Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
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