Surprising (Yet Unsurprising) Fact Of The Day: Zoo Surplus Edition

“Wait, did you just say you sold me to a hunting ranch?!”

A 1999 investigation by reporter Linda Goldston found that:

Of the 19,361 mammals that left the nation’s accredited zoos from 1992 through mid-1998, 7,420 — or 38 percent — went to dealers, auctions, hunting ranches, unidentified individuals or unaccredited zoos or game farms whose owners actively buy and sell animals, according to transaction data from the International Species Information System.

Just a snapshot in time, after lots of effort by Goldston to get state and federal records (since zoos and the AZA don’t freely share this info). But revealing…

 

Points Worth Noting…

From Anthony Barnosky, who is featured in the new Smithsonian Channel documentary Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink (which aired last night):

“We have killed about 50 percent of the world’s vertebrate wildlife in just the past 40 years,” he says. “We’ve killed half the numbers of individuals. We’ve fished 90 percent of the fish out of the seas. So these are big things we’re doing to the world.”

Yes, very big. Sounds like Barnosky’s book, Dodging Extinction: Power, Food, Money and the Future of Life on Earthis worth a read. (via)

Good Fences Make Good (Large Animal) Neighbors

At least that’s what scientists working on lion conservation have concluded:

After 35 years of field research in the Serengeti plains, Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, has lost all patience with the romance of African wilderness. Fences, he says, are the only way to stop the precipitous and continuing decline in the number of African lions.

“Reality has to intrude,” he said. “Do you want to know the two most hated species in Africa, by a mile? Elephants and lions.” They destroy crops and livestock, he said, and sometimes, in the case of lions, actually eat people.

Dr. Packer’s goal is to save lions. Fencing them in, away from people and livestock, is the best way to do that, he believes, both for conservation and economics. He made that argument in a paper this month in Ecology Letters, along with 57 co-authors, including most of the top lion scientists and conservationists.

I am a romantic when it comes to the wild, but I agree that sometimes you have to be practical. And if fences will save lives all around, then it is hard to argue against them–though the cost estimates are daunting. And even if you could build all that fencing, is there anything to prevent humans from continuing to shrink the fenced area as populations continue to grow?

It would be interesting to try to compare the net benefit of investing tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars in fencing versus investing in education and technical training, say, which in turn helps reduce the poverty and desperation that often gets lions (and elephants) killed, slows population growth, and reduces reliance on livestock farming.