Sunday, August 28, 2005

No room for Homo Sapiens

That is the feeling I get after finally reading C Josh Donlon's article on Slate about introducing foreign species into the North American biosphere. An Indian elephant is not a wooly mammoth nor is a Bactrian camel the same as the extinct species of camel that once roamed North America 13,000 years ago. Nevermind the idea of African cheetahs or lions being introduced to the continent.

Lets look at the needs for an Indian elephant. It is an animal that can weigh five tons. Each consumes upto 100 liters of water a day while consuming as much as 300Kg of food. They travel in herds of 15 to 30 animals with only one bull male. Excess males are exiled into separate bachelor herds and about the age of 20 they go into state called 'musth,' Hindi for intoxicated, as testosterone levels rise by a factor of twenty for as long as 60 days which makes these elephants very aggressive. In classical times, the range of a herd can be so large it would take ten years for the herd to complete a circuit. Elephants do not swim rivers when migrating, they use their trunk as a snorkel and walk along the river bottom.

A herd of fifteen elephants, all adults, would be consuming 1500 liters of water a day plus 4500Kgs of food a day and I am sure there would be more than one herd introduced. And Mr. Donlon wants to introduce these animals plus others like cheetahs and lions into the Great Plains of North America. How much of the Great Plains should be set aside for these foreign animals? Lets see there is a glib reference by Mr. Donlon of falling population and a lack of jobs in this region, would he care to cite his sources for this statement since I am sure the farmers who grow the grain that feeds the United States plus a large part of the world would really want to know they are endangered. I must ask Mr. Donlon, who is wanting to play supreme deity again in this fable?

If this harebrained scheme goes forward due to some wealthy environmentalists buying land in the Great Plains basin or conning the U.S. Government into taking land, I predict many deaths. First will be a few innocent farmers and ranchers due to escapees from the re-wilding. Then the predatory/destructive species will be hunted in self defense by these same people. And amidst all this more farmers/ranchers will die along with true believing environmentalists who try to intervene. For the environmentalists, education about how we need to save some of the animals will fall on deaf ears once these foreign species start destroying property[ Indian elephants do that when hunting for food] or killing people [Indian elephants have been known to kill humans, nevermind the real predator species].

Must wonder if Mr. Donlon has read this from National Geographic before penning his piece of doggerel: Environment controls elephant populations. I must wonder if similar findings will come from the study of Indian elephants.

Some final questions for Mr. Donlon. How complete of a food chain does he intend to import from Africa and India to support his grand dream on the Great Plains? What will these imports' environmental impact be on more native flora and fauna? If we are going to save snail darters, then we must give serious consideration to how will we guard other animals of North America from man-made depredations, including the species Homo Sapiens from incredible schemes hatched by a few members of it.

Sources of information on Asian elephants:
Honolulu Zoo
Chafee Zoo
Phoenix Zoo


The MaryHunter said...

Great fisking, Anna! I wrote about this guy and his scheme awhile back, and I liked your take on it so much that I updated with a link and a quote. Hope you don't mind. ;-)

My original post:


Anna said...

Not a problem and thanks, but right now one dingbat's crack dream for the Great Plains is secondary to what has happened.

Anna said...

On further reflection I think I will refer to this whole concept as Donlon's Zooillogical Gardens.