Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Saving Species

Seems like we are on a zoo theme this weekend.

This short article talks about a Czech zoo's attempts to save the white rhino from extinction via artificial insemination.

I have mixed feelings about the role of zoos in the rescue of species (GOOD zoos of course, not bad zoos. But what makes a good zoo? Good topic for another post.)

I used to believe that if worse came to worse, we could always bring an extinct species back to life through the genes that we have preserved at zoos and other research institutions. But as I have grown older, I have grown much more cynical.

Really, if we cared enough about these species, wouldn't we have prevented them from going extinct in the first place? These genes are not hedgefunds for situations where we are too lazy or apathetic to take real action. And the action is not just preserving the species on an individual basis. It's stopping the factors that contribute to their extinction.

Particularly in the northern hemispheres, we have to realize that preservation is more than just protecting the individual species. Habitat is disappearing in order to satisfy our desire for wood and oil. Animals are poached to satisfy our desire for furs and ivory. Overpopulation brings animals and humans into greater conflict and more violence. In light of such overwhelming obstacles, I'm a bit cynical that we have the "political will" to save these animals. It involves too much work and too much change. Also, we are running out of time.

And save them to what purpose? To live in captivity? Then they are no longer the same species. Then they are basically domesticated. And who will eventually control these genes that will bring back extinct animals? Corporations? Then we can have manufactured parks with lions, tigers and chimpanzees? Or will we have grazing pastures for gorillas to eventually harvest them for their meat?

I think its laudable for zoos to be doing what they can to save a species, but it is worth looking at the great scheme of things to understand what the true issues really are. It may be depressing, but reality often is.

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