Elephants killed off in their thousands and polar bears requiring sustenance intervention hit the news this week. Species on the verge of extinction have one commonality, the need, greed and indifference of humanity.
Scientists say that we are the most intelligent species on earth. In fact, according to the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), "Homo sapiens (Latin for knowing man), are biologically classified "as a primate species of mammal with a highly developed brain."
As such, the Institute writes, "humans consider themselves the most intelligent organism in the animal kingdom," with "the highest brain to body mass ratio of all large animals."
But are we truly intelligent or simply adept at destruction?
American Founding Father Thomas Jefferson showed incredible foresight when he said:
Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.
But it isn't just our country anymore, the destruction has gone global.
In a world ruled by governments and self-imposed borders, our desires are forced onto an animal kingdom that recognizes none of them -- the earth's wildlife. Wildlife simply living as nature intended and seeking only to exist as we rain calamity about its head.
Be it in the name of tradition, culture, religion, medicine, business, profit or sheer convenience, we thoughtlessly plunder forward absent awareness or consideration. The avarice of Homo sapiens raids, ruins, depletes, desiccates, exterminates and demands.
Intelligent species yet incapable of seeing the entire picture
"This cannot continue," said a colleague to me today, one of the rare few who has connected the dots and shudders at the entire picture now being displayed. She was referencing the slaughter of 11,100 elephants at a national park once home to Africa’s largest forest elephant population.
Mother and young rhinoceros killed for their horns. At the beginning of the 20th century there were 500,000 rhinos. Since 1970 the world rhino population has declined by 90 percent.
As reported by ScienceDaily.com recently, new surveys revealed that two thirds of the elephant population at Gabon's Minkebe Park, have vanished since 2004.
Killed by poachers for their desirable tusks, the number is a mere drop in the bucket compared to the estimated 31,800 individuals poached in Africa just last year said the Born Free Foundation.
I was surprised to learn that Far Eastern medical remedies is not the only issue driving the ivory trade. Earth in Transition.org's Michael Mountain, says religion too is also killing off the elephants.
Mountain cited an investigation by National Geographic's Bryan Christy, whose report 'Blood Ivory' revealed its use in crafting religious icons for prominent faiths.
Christy makes it clear that this shoddy business is in no way limited to the Far East or to minor priests at the Vatican. Both the current pope and his beloved predecessor were involved in the ivory trade.
Elephant killed by poachers, Voi area, Kenya. Over 31,000 elephants were killed by poachers in Africa just last year says the Born Free Foundation.
As if being killed for their tusks is not sufficient enough, elephants are now paying the price to harvest an oil that has already cost the lives of thousands of orangutans -- palm oil. Just last week according to fellow Digital Journal contributor Anne Sewell, 14 elephants at the Gunung Rara Forest Reserve in Malaysia, were poisoned by plantation workers to prevent the animals from eating the fruit of the oil palm.
When it comes to Homo Sapiens, avarice knows no bounds. On a daily basis we impact species across the spectrum. It is now more difficult to find a species not impacted by the intelligence of the human race. Some may hurt more than others but all of them in some manner, feel the hand of man.
Laid out this week in Conservation Letters, the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology, was an article that cited thoughts by the world's premier polar bear scientists. According to Ed Struzik of Yale's Environment 360, scientists are proposing:
Drastic measures to save these iconic animals, including supplemental feeding by humans during ice-free periods and relocating more southerly populations to the High Arctic.
Polar bear in Wager Bay (Ukkusiksalik National Park, Nunavut, Canada). Bears may require supplemental feeding scientists suggest.
The supplemental feeding would involve nineteen polar bear populations all told, in Canada, Alaska, Greenland, Norway, and Russia. It would require thousands of seals to be killed by wildlife officials every summer to meet the bears' needs. And the reason it is being considered added Struzik, is to prevent these bears from coming into conflict with humans, "vying for the same food."
The National Snow and Ice Date Center (NSIDC), recorded the extent of the Arctic sea ice for January 2013 as well below average.
This retreating sea ice is not only impacting where the polar bears hunt but how they hunt.
Bears unable to hunt seals, their primary food source, must infringe on humanity in order to survive. This sparks competition often detrimental to the bears.
Ironically, the loss of sea ice is due to greenhouse gases from human-caused pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 34 percent of these gasses come from electricity production, 27 percent from transportation; 20 percent from industry and 11 percent from commercial and residential enterprises.
"Experiments with climate models," NSIDC said, "suggest that Arctic sea ice could recover with reductions in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations." But rather than address emissions and fix the imbalance caused, it's easier to feed the polar bears instead.
In this one instance, Homo sapien consumerism has now impacted two separate animal species. One could pay to save another. This is how we save the world when we've screwed it up. Rather than fix our mistakes and provide a long-term solution, it is easier to plug the hole with another species.
This isn't a rising phenomenon, it isn't even a new phenomenon, it's been happening for centuries on a global scale, because its more convenient for humanity.
Gunnar Ries Amphibol
Wolves, annihilated by man in the North Western US have been reintroduced and are now seen as competition for food.
Since 1600 writes the ASPCA, more than 700 species of plants and animals have gone extinct, and these are only the species that we know of. The Center for Biological Diversity adds, "To date, 1,331 species are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)."
There are many more species under threat that have not been added to the list.
Seeking a listing under the ESA is a complicated affair that is implemented by two federal agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It takes a minimum of two years to get a species listed, but this is rarely the case, many take much, much longer. Sometimes, it is too late.
So who is protecting the animals?
Unfortunately, US, government agencies created to protect animals are stifled by bureaucracy. As such, laws are ineffective, stagnant, outdated or in some cases, completely useless. A perfect example of this are the laws governing swim-with-the-dolphins programs. Quite simply, they don't exist.
According to APHIS:
In 1994, changes to the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) placed sole responsibility for regulatory oversight of “swim with the dolphin” interactive programs with APHIS. The change to the MMPA prompted AC to initiate the regulatory process to address the special needs of these programs.
APHIS published a proposed rule in the Federal Register and, after reviewing and considering all comments received, published a final rule. However, soon after publication of the final rule, questions were raised that led APHIS to suspend enforcement of the provisions until the rule could be reanalyzed and clarifications could be proposed. Enforcement of the provisions remains suspended.
It is a suspension that has lasted 13 years. To date, there has been no reanalysis or clarification issued and businesses that provide these programs operate under self-regulation. There are no guidelines governing either the protection of dolphin or the humans that pay to interact with them.
Aquariums have no issue with this, they can seek maximum profit without detriment. By ensuring that visitors sign a release form prior to swimming with the dolphins, the liability issue becomes null and void.
This subtle skirting of responsibility is frequently employed by businesses that exploit animals in the US. In other countries, corruption is more rampant and open. Laws are stomped on even by government officials because the money God talks much louder.
We see it because it is a problem of our own making, yet still we remain indifferent. From habitat destruction, deforestation, pollution, to dubious medical cures driving wildlife to extinction, there is a death straw penetrating earth's deepest core, and we continue to suck her dry.
Deforestation in Amazonia, seen from satellite.
As society marches onward we deplete one area then move swiftly to the next. But earth is not infinite and she cannot keep pace. What will happen when she has nothing left to give?
Charles Darwin said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."
Unfortunately, as we evolve, we remain reluctant to change from what we want versus what we need. Slow to act but quick to consume, our intelligence as a species then can only remain in question. And as we continue to destroy that which we depend upon for survival, soon, we may no longer even retain the luxury of choosing.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com