The readings for this week, especially Meyer’s book The End of the Wild, left me questioning my place in this world and has made me want to do everything I can do to save it. But, the sad reality is that there is only so much I can do as a 21 year old. Yes I can live sustainably by using a reusable bottle of water and biking or walking to class every day, but as a college student I cannot do much more. There are actually few people in the world that can really have an impact. This is most prominent when it comes to endangered or “relic” species that Meyer’s mentions in his book. According to Meyer’s, every year 3,000 different species of plants or animals becomes extinct, and at the same time only 1 new species is discovered. This is especially alarming because there are some species we don’t even know about that we are killing.
There have been efforts to save endangered species though. As inhumane as some zoos can be, they can actually help. When our class went to a zoo the other week, we were all saddened by the lives and actions we saw with the animals. While I do not think animals like tigers or hyenas should be kept in zoos, the smaller jaguar that was there was actually benefiting the species. There are about 300 of these jaguars in zoos, and only 120 in the wild. You may be asking why is it good for the majority of them to be in zoos, and the answer is easy but hard to cope with … the main reason they are becoming extinct is because of habitation loss. Humans will always develop undeveloped land for either the resources or real estate (as we see with the Tiger Salamander).
Not all of these animals are staying permanently in the zoos; some zoos are a temporary healing zone for injured or sick animals, and eventually they get released. Some successful efforts Meyer’s highlights are the flock of “relic” geese that were raised in a contained setting and eventually taught their natural migratory routes, as well as the white wolf that has been making a comeback recently. Something that is limiting the wolfs comeback is regulations set forth by the US government. The US government has been reintroducing wolfs in the northeast, but they also say farmers are allowed to shoot any wolf that attacks their animals. This is an example of what Meyer’s calls “human selection,” rather than the regular “natural selection.” We see this human selection all over the world with deer in the US, the decline of lions in Africa to protect game animals, and the efforts put forth to protect pandas because they are “cute.”
Meyer’s is not completely pessimistic though. While he thinks we have lost our wilderness, he does think we can save some of what we have left. The suggestion he makes for this is a heavily managed wild. “Relic” species or animals in danger will have to be monitored, and I hate to say it, may have to be kept in zoos until a suitable natural location can be found for them (but how natural will that location be?).
In this uncertain world we live in, there is something we can be certain about: Change is certain. So humans as a species have to unite and try and make that change a positive one; if we don’t it will truly be the end of the wild.