Big news this week is Terry Thompson and his exotic animal farm. For those of you who haven’t heard, Terry Thompson, owner of an exotic animal farm in Zanesville Ohio, released all of his animals on October 18th before committing suicide. Within the next 24 hours 49 of his 56 animals were hunted and killed by 50 deputies from the Sheriff’s office in Zanesville.
Among these rare animals were 18 Bengal tigers, two wolves, eight lionesses, six black bears, and one baboon. As of yesterday there was only one monkey missing, but deputies have announced that he was eaten by one of the loose tigers.
Thompson had a history with the police department including complaints from neighbors, animal cruelty, fines for loose animals, and a term in prison after being found with illegal weapons. There is speculation that his actions stemmed from his wife recently leaving him.
Photos from Zanesville are hard to stomach. Rare animals slaughtered in a mass hunt. Even so, representatives from the Humane Society and even Jack Hanna have said that deputies were not wrong in their actions. Concerned with their own safety and the safety of residents, deputies were forced to act. Many deputies have voiced their sadness at being put in such a position.
Jack Hanna, who drove up to aid deputies and to transport the captured animals to the Columbus Zoo, has voiced his dismay at the Ohio laws that allow civilians to own exotic animals at their homes. The County Sheriff and Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, have also voiced outrage about this incident in reference to loose state policy where exotic animals are concerned.
What makes it green? The destruction of these exotic animals is a horrific incident. Sustainable treatment of this planets treasure’s and resources doesn’t include the mistreatment of animals. The fact that Terry Thompson’s actions could lead to the death of 49 exotic animals is disturbing. I’m interested to see what happens in the future. This event has given the Ohio state legislature something to consider and activists a new cause.
Everyone should learn about the Dodo bird because ”Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it” – George Santayana. The story of the Dodo bird is a textbook example of extinction by humanity’s reckless ambitions going unchecked by any sustainability efforts. Mauritius, an island off of Southern Africa in the Indian Ocean is where the Dodo bird used to call home. There are currently no living Dodo birds anywhere in the world.
In 1598 the Portuguese landed on Mauritius, an island previously untouched by humanity where the Dodo bird was at the top of the food chain. Without any natural predators and an abundance of food the Dodo bird did not need to fly and evolved to lose its flying ability. Weighing in at 50 pounds, eating fruit that fell from trees and nesting on the ground, the Dodo bird had a “niche” lifestyle unsuitable for anywhere else in the world. By 1662, less than 100 years later, the Dodo birds existence on this planet ceased.
The Dodo bird got its name for its apparent stupidity to Portuguese settlers. It’s massive size and easy hunting made the Dodo a meal of choice for sailors who would pass through the area in years to come. Over hunting is one major reason the Dodo went extinct.
Prior human settlement there were no mammals on Mauritius to threaten the Dodo’s existence. When the Portuguese set up shop they brought with them all sorts of animals including pigs, monkeys, and probably un-intentionally, rats. All of these invasive species added to the Dodo’s demise as their nest were very vulnerable to pillaging. Inter-species “survival of the fittest” proved the Dodo bird to be weak contestant against the new alien-species immigration boom on Mauritius.
Another reason the Dodo bird died out is because of habitat destruction, another inevitable consequence of colonization. As the island of Mauritius was conquered, the natural resource of timber was being depleted exponentially. One driving force of the deforestation is when the Dutch used Mauritius as a prison for their convicts.
Today Mauritius is a democratic nation with a thriving economy and is a popular tourist destination. As for the Dodo, they’re dead, the last confirmed sighting was in 1662 by Volkert Evertsz.
According to National Geographic, the Dodo bird is a long lost descendant of the pigeon and dove. How the Dodo got separated from its cousins 25 million years ago, and got to the solitary island of Mauritius is still a mystery. The Dodo was well equipped for living on Mauritius but as history shows, it did not adapt well to the introduction of other species, mainly humans.
The Calvaria tree is native to Mauritius, and evidence shows that its livelihood was directly related to the Dodo bird’s existence. When the Dodo bird died out so did the tree, the seeds from the Calvaria tree needed to be germinated in the birds system and distributed in its droppings. Today the Calvaria tree is still thriving thanks to the introduction of turkeys to the island who’s bladders serve the same purpose for the seeds as the Dodo birds did. This is an example of how an entire ecosystem can be affected by the removal, or introduction of a species.
What Makes It Green:
History can be “green” too. By being educated on what went wrong in the past, we can try to avoid the same mistakes in the future so that our children do not have to imagine certain species, but can still see them for themselves. The Dodo may not have been the sharpest species in the shed, but I still would have enjoyed seeing one.
Lions may soon go away, and never return. Mufasa is in trouble, and it’s not a stampede coming to get him, but the humans. Scientists are predicting that the lion’s dynasty may last a mere fifteen years longer before they’re all extinct.
The role of the lion in Africa is similar to the wolf in North America, both are top predators and both are keystone species to their ecosystems. Anyone who knows the history of Yellowstone can tell you that wolves are a hot topic. Wolves help control the resident populations of deer and elk. Deer and elk destroy their environments and ecosystems when left unchecked by natural predators like wolves. Wolves regulate the population of herbivores so that they do not over-graze their environment, which could lead to erosion, and destruction of habitats where other animals live. Lions and wolves, being keystone species, hold the rest of their eco-systems in place. The need for wolves in Yellowstone has been realized since wolf-extermination that began in 1925, which successfully annihilated the native wolf population. In March 1995, Alaskan wolves were re-introduced into the area to restore the eco-system. The role of the lion has not been fully recognized and scientist fear that once it is, it will be too late. Unlike North American wolves, if the African lions die out there is not an “Alaskan breed of Lion” or alternative breed available that could be introduced to fix the problem.
The worst-case scenario is that African lions have already reached a point so close to extinction that restoration efforts are futile. The World Conservation Union stated, “There is not a single population of lions in West or Central Africa that is large enough to be viable [for population restoration].” (New Scientist), The article also states that the amount of lions living in East Africa is unknown, meaning there is a possible hope for restoration there.
A “viable population” is considered to be a pride with 1000 animals, aka 500 breeding pairs. The numbers are as such because this is the minimum amount of species required to start up a population without inbreeding. Currently, there may be a total population of over 1000 lions in East Africa; however, the population is fragmented with rival prides.
For every one male lion killed an estimated 20-30 lions die in the aftermath, this is because each male lion has a key role in his pride and when they are killed it is an opportunity for rival prides to attack and slay cubs. (CNN) Male cubs, and female lions trying to protect them, are killed as spoils of war for one pride of lions when another pride falls victim to poaching. Humans incite these battles, which have taken a toll on virtually all lions in some way or another.
Dereck and Beverly Joubert are responsible for creating several lion-themed documentaries to inspire conservation efforts. These documentaries include: The Last Lions, Living with Big Cats, and Big Cat Odyssey. “95 percent of the big cats have vanished over a 50-year period,” Said Beverly Joubert, adding, “that’s about the time we have been alive”. Beverly also stated that Dereck, and her inspiration for making the films is “We try to create awareness of how quickly we are losing these cats and we could lose them in 15 years.” (Digital Journal)
According to Treehugger.com, in 1960, there were 45,000 lions in the wild; in 2010, this number dropped to 20,000. It does not take a serious mathematician to realize that if the population decline continues as it has been, there will be no lions left within the decade (give or take a few years). (Treehugger.com)
To counteract the decreasing lion population three things would have to happen:
Protection of Lion habitat
End lion hunting/ poaching
More restrictions on big cat trading (to reduce the risk of poaching and increase fines for those caught hunting lions).
The lion has been a symbolic animal for Africa, much like the Bald Eagle is for America, but what if Africa didn’t have lions? This is a scenario that is a statistically justifiable to be come a reality within 15 years. The African ecosystems could be next to collapse if they lose the lion as their keystone species; to quote Dereck Joubert: “Erosion follows, rivers silt up, and fish die, all because we took out a few lions.” (CNN)
Where will Simba go? Now that Mufasa has been crushed under the weight of… us.