18 August 2005

No to elephants, yes to tigers

A plan has been put forth buy a group of prominent ecologists to transplant lions and elephants to the Great Plains of North America in order to save some species from extinction in Africa, where protection is spotty and habitats are vanishing. The argument is that the relocated animals would help restore the biodiversity in North America to a condition closer to what it was before humans entered the continent. Most modern African species, of course, never lived on the American prairie, but some of their biological cousins like mastodons, camels and saber-toothed cats, roamed for more than 1 million years alongside antelope and herds of bison until Ice Age glaciers retreated and humans arrived with spears and an appetite for Flinstonian steaks.

Myself, I find the idea of introducing elephants a bit wacky. Elephants, metaphorical or real, tend to be destructive creatures. Rather than pachyderms, I'd rather see them introduce some Siberian tigers. I am aware that these giants meat-crunching felines might devour the occasional hitchhiker. But who can resist the charm of these giant cats. And hiking amidst deadly predators would heighten the back-to-nature experience during that next hike through the Rockies.

6 comments:

Ole Blue The Heretic said...

I believe that they would destroy the ecology. We need to stop messing with mother nature.

The Continental Op said...

I hard about this on NPR yesterday. Though I'm a strong advocate of "native species" restoration -- especially when it comes to my beloved wild trout! -- this plan struck me as utterly ridiculous. I see a substantial difference between trying to repair the ecological damage wrought in the modern age by industrialization, and trying to turn back the ecological clock tens of thousands of years. Why stop with large mammals? With cloning technology, surely we could restore the dinosaurs that once roamed North America . . . .

The Continental Op said...

Er, that should have said "I heard about this . . . ." Sloppy typing!

Karlo said...

I wonder if they'll ever be able to restore the mastodons. Massive mammals bigger than elephants would have such a heavy impact on any environment that it's hard to imagine them letting something like that loose, unless it's something that could survive in the northern reaches of Canada or Alaska. I agree with you on native trout. Some of the native trout are really beautiful. Growing up, there were a lot of native trout species, but most of them have been wiped out by a combination of warm water and farm-bread trout that get planted periodically.

Gleyes said...

The occassional dead hitchiker would rather give a whole new meaning to "road kill", aye?

Karlo said...

This is true.