August 19, 2005

Lions and elephants and reparations, oh my

Ordinarily I have a great deal of respect for Cornell but one Professor Josh Donlan is giving me, out here on the Canadian prairie, second thoughts. Not to mention the heebie-jeebies. Aren't coyotes, cougars, bobcats, and black bears on my doorstep enough? Will I really have to contend with lions, cheetahs, and elephants stalking the kids and me as we garden, go for walks, and do chores? I don't think I'd mind the camels too much, as long as they leave my vegetables and our crops alone.

As Scientific American reported yesterday,
Josh Donlan of Cornell University and his colleagues propose replacing the large carnivores and herbivores that disappeared from North America 13,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Noting that humans likely had a part in these extinctions and that our subsequent activities have stunted the evolutionary potential of most remaining megafauna, the scientists say we have an ethical responsibility to address these problems. But rather than just managing extinction, they argue, conservation biology should aim to actively restore natural processes.

Apparently Josh hasn't been locked in the old ivory tower too long because he does realize that "Obviously, gaining public acceptance is going to be a huge issue, especially when you talk about reintroducing predators...There are going to have to be some major attitude shifts. That includes realizing predation is a natural role, and that people are going to have to take precautions."

If you're intrigued or don't believe me, you can read an interview with the professor here. Michael Crichton must be laughing and rubbing his hands with glee about this "ecological history park." Just please tell me there was no government grant money involved...

In the meantime, I'm off to build me a fence. A really, really high fence. As high as an elephant's eye fence, chortle.

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