American Elephants

The Abundance of Life on Earth by The Elephant's Child


The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released a report last week about the Endangered Species Act (1973).  It has been one of those “feel good”laws that makes residents of big cities feel noble about protecting the wildlife of the world. Zoos have found that trying to preserve threatened species with breeding in zoos has meant more interest from the public and more financial support. And the world’s zoos have had some success. The costs of the Endangered Species Act are huge — easily in the tens of billions and probably in the hundreds of billions. The accomplishments are very questionable.

Many species which were thought to be endangered aren’t. We just weren’t looking in the right place (Polar bears, Emperor penguins, Canadian Caribou herds). Ardent environmentalists are known to search for a species that they can call “endangered” to prevent the building of a project they don’t like. In this case it was a beetle that could prevent the Keystone pipeline. Farmers and ranchers have been known to shoot species found on their land lest government regulations make their property unusable and unsalable. The court has ruled that Congress intended for federally endangered species to be saved “whatever the cost” in the case of California’s snail darter. A green light for the bureaucracy is part of what created “the swamp.”

Wild animals usually try to avoid people as much as possible, and they’re good at it. If there seems to be none here, it does not mean that there are not some on the other side of the mountain. I live in Bellevue, Washington, a Seattle suburb with a 2016 population of over 141,400 that is building “affordable housing” everywhere, in the form of high-rise apartments. I think they are transforming a leafy city into Shanghai. This morning a neighbor complained online about a bobcat in her yard early. Anyone that drives home late at night will see coyotes and bunnies. (the rabbits explain the coyotes).

I grew up on 400 acres in the foothills of the Rockies, and our property abutted National Forest and BLM land, with a river running through it. I occasionally heard a cougar scream, and a lynx killed and ate my cat’s kittens, and tried for my dog. Rural people are apt to have a better understanding of the environment than city folk, whose idea of “wilderness” can be a little lacking.

Oct. 2010: “345 New Species Discovered, and 1/3 of Extinct Species Aren’t ExtinctPictured was an Okapi or Forest Giraffe, hadn’t been seen since 1969. March, 2012: “This is Elphaba“— pictured. She was a baby Aye-aye born at the Duke Lemur Center. Aye-ayes are nocturnal, lives in tropical rainforest, and has a very specialized diet of the interior of Ramy nuts, nectar from the Travellers Palm tree and some fungi and insect grubs. August, 2013:A New Carnivorous Mammal Species Discovered in the Americas , pictured the Olinguito — looks like a cross between a house cat and a teddy bear. December 2014: More Abundance of Life: 221 New Species Discovered. And here’s a picture of an animal you didn’t know existed,  a Markhor, a species of wild goat found in NE Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you are especially interested, enter “endangered species” or “new species” in the blank over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar. (We probably have generations who have no idea who Bob Hope was)

It is a large and complicated Earth, and what seems to be missing in one place may well be abundant elsewhere. Biodiversity scientists estimate that we have discovered less than ten percent of species on the planet. In 2014, the new species, previously unknown, included 110 ants, 16 beetles, 3 spiders, 28 fished, 24 sea slugs, 2 marine worms, 9 barnacles, 2 octocorals, 25 plants, one waterbear and one tiny mammal—an elephant shrew. (not pictured)

P.S. The Polar Bears are Just fine and prospering.

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