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The Dodo may soon have some august company
May 21, 2007 10:21 PM   Subscribe


 
More on the orangutans: The Last Stand of the Orangutan
posted by homunculus at 10:49 PM on May 21, 2007


Wow, sad.

Those are some small but very nice photos.

Honestly though, my first thought was: too... many.... people...

.
posted by -t at 11:08 PM on May 21, 2007




It's a bit biased to list only the highly endangered species like the black rhino or orangutan, without balancing the picture with a list of relatively newly appeared species, like the hiv & sars viruses.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:35 PM on May 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


Which ones are the tastiest?
posted by zippy at 12:04 AM on May 22, 2007


Which ones are the tastiest?

Numbers two through 10 taste like chicken. I haven't tried the lynx.
posted by Crotalus at 12:13 AM on May 22, 2007


And these are only from among the "charismatic megafauna." In fact, many species go extinct DAILY from loss of habitat and other human-induced situations. Even if they're not tourism-inducing species, the loss of these species weakens their ecosystems and destabilizes the environment as a whole.
It's a bad time to be a biosphere.
posted by lostburner at 12:19 AM on May 22, 2007




WANT
posted by Abiezer at 12:40 AM on May 22, 2007


Things like this make depressing reading. The idea that with each passing day another form of life that took millions of years to develop has disappeared for good... whilst not every extinction is noticed or caused by humanity, many are, and is the starkest reminder of the destruction we cause. We really are a virus, a disease, not only spreading and destroying the host, but everything that depends on it, including itself. The ultimate self-destructing life form. Not even great art makes up for that loss.
posted by Acey at 12:51 AM on May 22, 2007


too... many.... people...

taking too much for free. "Oh, a forest! Let's cut it down and sell all the dead trees to rich people! Oh, a rhino. Let's machine-gun it and sell the horns to fools! The sea! Let's strip-mine the bottom for fish! Oh, an untouched piece of nature! Let's ride motorcycles through it and tromp around in it!"

In fact, many species go extinct DAILY from loss of habitat

In that, though, you might be able to help directly and locally (here's a US map) in small but useful ways. If you have a garden or even just a window box, plant it for whatever local bug species are having trouble, and don't use pesticides even if it means you lose a few flowers or vegetables to bugs.

And give money to people like World Land Trust. No one is going to save any endangered species if they don't secure the land they live on. Save the charismatic megafauna because there are many other species living with them (and even on them) -- save the entire local systems, not just one fluffy beast, but use the fluffy beast to sell the idea if that's what it takes.
posted by pracowity at 12:57 AM on May 22, 2007


Crotalus, you really should click on the lynx.
posted by emelenjr at 1:07 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Abiezer, you should submit that to I can has cheezburger, it's original.
posted by Firas at 3:38 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ah, endangered animals .... and a chance to mention my eight year old's endangered animal site.... Allie's Animal Project
posted by RMD at 4:40 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I was sort of hoping that LOLCATS was on this list.
posted by psmealey at 4:57 AM on May 22, 2007


See also: Last Chance to See. An amazing program and one of the greatest books ever written. RIP DNA.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:00 AM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Not sad at all. New species are being discovered and even evolving just as fast as the old ones are becoming extinct. The Earth doesn't have some kind of species shortage, and spending gajillions on trying to prevent this or that animal dying out is just stupid.
posted by reklaw at 5:34 AM on May 22, 2007


Hmmm reklaw, and here I though trolls were extinct.
posted by RMD at 5:37 AM on May 22, 2007


I don't think reklaw's POV is trolling necessarily. Conservation is indeed a moral impulse rather than a solely rational one.
posted by Firas at 5:43 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Perhaps.
posted by RMD at 5:45 AM on May 22, 2007


New species are being discovered and even evolving just as fast as the old ones are becoming extinct.

With the exception of bugs, evolution doesn't really happen that fast.
posted by drezdn at 6:04 AM on May 22, 2007


reklaw: Yeah, and God will never allow us to run out of oil.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:27 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


They forgot Iraqis
posted by zouhair at 6:35 AM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Conservation is indeed a moral impulse rather than a solely rational one.

Oh, I agree that just from an aesthethic point of view I'll never understand humans' capacity for destroying natural beauty, and the way so many people seem to have gotten so out of tune with nature. (I'm speaking here of the Western culture I grew up in.)

But from a practical POV - is the world really designed (so to speak) and equipped to handle as many homo sapiens doing as much damage as they do? Couldn't you consider the way the species behaves to be abnormally out of balance with its habitat, compared to other species?
posted by NorthernLite at 7:19 AM on May 22, 2007


This may sound heartless, but I'm more worried about the amphibians and honeybees.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:30 AM on May 22, 2007


Rational impulses are a subset of morality, not the other way round.
posted by one_bean at 7:31 AM on May 22, 2007


Not sad at all. New species are being discovered and even evolving just as fast as the old ones are becoming extinct. The Earth doesn't have some kind of species shortage, and spending gajillions on trying to prevent this or that animal dying out is just stupid.

There's nearly 200 species going extinct every day, thousands of times higher than the background extinction rate, and vastly higher than the rate of speciation. I agree that the focus shouldn't be on this or that animal; rather, it should be on the catastrophic losses of biodiversity, what E.O. Wilson called, "the end of life."

I don't think reklaw's POV is trolling necessarily. Conservation is indeed a moral impulse rather than a solely rational one.

It's tragic that so many environmentalists have framed it in those terms that people can actually think that, but humans are not independent of our ecologies. We depend on the diversty of life around us like any other species. The mass extinction we're driving forward is quite suicidal, and will ultimately drive us to extinction as well.
posted by jefgodesky at 7:37 AM on May 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Saving a particular species in situ is a good way of ensuring that the environment in that place remains healthy and that valuable resources there are not being irreversibly depleted. These are good things for humans. You could be a completely self-centered fuck-the-animals hurfdurf but-they're-tasty halfwit dickhead and still have good reason to be an environmentalist.
posted by pracowity at 7:44 AM on May 22, 2007


Well, I'm an environmentalist myself, but I'm extremely confused from a philosophical standpoint when it comes to stuff like environmentalism and animal rights etc. I just never understand why, if animals have rights, then organism X has more rights than organism Y.

With that tangent out of the way, I understand when it comes to ecology, protecting the environment is justified from the standpoint of pure self-protection. Sure, catastrophic ecological change is harmful to humanity. I remember a line from Jurassic Park (the book) in which the mathematician, I think, says something like "oh, the planet will be ok. That's not the problem. We're the ones in trouble."

I don't think we should draw the line there though. I think there's a problem with a certain species going extinct even if others survive in that niche. One may claim that if humans have been responsible for driving something to extinction then clearly interfering with the extinction process is not 'playing god' any more than the behavior which causes extinction is doing so. But I think that particular dialogue ("should we interfere in extinction? is it because we've been causing the extinction?") is fairly cloistering. I want to prevent extinction regardless of what the lead-up was. I just don't know what the philosophical basis for it is beyond a strong desire wrapped in a moral worldview and justified by its zero-sumness, i.e. either we protect an ecological niche or we don't, so those who do wish to protect it have a stronger claim than those who don't mind it being wiped out.
posted by Firas at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Bactrian Camel is featured in the Planet Earth documentary series. It lives in the cold Mongolian desert, of all places, and has to eat snow to survive.
posted by smackfu at 9:17 AM on May 22, 2007


I don't think we should draw the line there though. I think there's a problem with a certain species going extinct even if others survive in that niche.

That runs into a big problem with environmentalists like me, and apparently you, who don't see why organism X gets more rights than organism Y, because ecologies are always changing, and there is a natural background rate of extinction, just like there's a normal death rate in a population. Homo sapiens interacts in an ecology like any other animal, and sometimes we cause extinctions, just like any other animal.

The problem comes when we start causing massively disproportionate extinctions, the same way that the natural death rate in a population becomes a problem when you have one person running around committing genocides. What does an atrocity look like, in such cold terms? Just a spiking death rate, just like we see in extinction rates.

And the same way that a death rate in a population helps balance out the birth rate, so too are extinctions necessary to open up niches for new species. So I think trying to keep everything alive is a foolhardy goal; rather, I think we need to focus on the fact that we are part of an ecology, and we depend on our ecology, and as a consequence, we're bound by sacred covenant and enlightened self-interest to do all we can to promote the health of that ecology (which might even, at times, mean an extinction running its course).
posted by jefgodesky at 9:20 AM on May 22, 2007


I'm a little confused as to why the wild Bactrian Camel would be a concern as there are a million and a half non-wild members of the species? Perhaps someone could explain better than the Wiki? What makes the wild different and why couldn't they just let some domesticated ones go feral?

Do we lament the loss of the wild heifer? Is/was there a wild heifer?
posted by Pollomacho at 9:25 AM on May 22, 2007


I'm a little confused as to why the wild Bactrian Camel would be a concern as there are a million and a half non-wild members of the species?

The welfare of the bactrian camel represents the welfare of a very fragile desert ecosystem. Also, they're cool.
posted by zennie at 9:38 AM on May 22, 2007


I never noticed that part about only the wild ones going extinct.

Does that mean that the wild domestic housecat is also extinct?
posted by smackfu at 9:40 AM on May 22, 2007


Does that mean that the wild domestic housecat is also extinct?

No.
posted by zennie at 9:47 AM on May 22, 2007


I'm a little confused as to why the wild Bactrian Camel would be a concern as there are a million and a half non-wild members of the species? Perhaps someone could explain better than the Wiki? What makes the wild different and why couldn't they just let some domesticated ones go feral?

Some animals rewild more easily than others; pigs go feral very easily, but cows, less so. The wild heifer was the aurochs, and I don't know about anyone else, but I lament its loss. I don't know where bactrian camels fall on that continuum, but they may well be difficult or even impossible to rewild. Even so, feral is not the same as wild. For example, domestication usually entails a significant drop in cranial capacity, and this is never fully recaptured in feral species. Dingos, descedned from feral dogs, have larger cranial capacities than their domesticated ancestors, but stll lag behind wild dogs.
posted by jefgodesky at 10:08 AM on May 22, 2007


jefgodesky, I'll buy the whole "problems come up when our effects on our ecology is disproportionate, not everytime the ecology changes" thing; like I said, my take on this is very fluid right now. The thing I brought up as organism X vs organism Y is more related less to "what's worth conserving" and more to animals rights/cruelty concepts (ie. why you can kill a cow but not a whale, or why if you go vegetarian for moral reasons you can't eat a cow but can swat an insect, etc.)
posted by Firas at 11:03 AM on May 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The thing I brought up as organism X vs organism Y is more related less to "what's worth conserving" and more to animals rights/cruelty concepts (ie. why you can kill a cow but not a whale, or why if you go vegetarian for moral reasons you can't eat a cow but can swat an insect, etc.)

I understand; that's my stance, too. What I'm suggesting is that if you carry that farther, it rather precludes taking a strong "stop extinction everywhere, all the time" attitude, as well. Even in an ideal situation where we weren't driving a mass extinction, I'd agree, as part of our ecosystem and as animals that benefit from taking lives in it, we have both a moral duty and a vested interest in promoting the health of our ecosystems, but organism X has no more rights than organism Y, and as such, not every extinction is a bad thing.

Of course, we're so far from a healthy ecological situation right now that this discussion is fairly absurdly theoretical, anyway.
posted by jefgodesky at 11:27 AM on May 22, 2007


Douglas Adams (the "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" wrote a book about his adventures tracking down all these endangered animals "Last Chance to See".

It was hilarious, as usual. Example: he tried to buy a condom in China to cover his microphone so he could record this river Dolphin (since it made strange sounds underwater), but since he didn't speak the language and had to explain what a condom was with hand gestures.

On a sad note, the river dolphin is now extinct.
posted by eye of newt at 10:26 PM on May 22, 2007


I wasn't trying to sound snarky before. I really don't understand. Anyone?

I just got back from that fragile desert ecosystem where I saw lots of undoubtedly cool bactrian camels of the domesticated variety. What I don't get is what is the distinction between the domesticated and wild and why would the wild be considered endangered when the domesticated seems to be doing fine? It's not as black and white as the vicuna vs. llama distinction, which are definitely seperate animals, or is it? I don't know.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:10 AM on May 23, 2007


That may well be it. I don't know the specifics on the bactrian camel, but some species have a very hard time rewilding. Some can't do it at all. Even those that can are never quite the same, that's why "feral" is so different from "wild."
posted by jefgodesky at 7:47 AM on May 23, 2007




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