Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Sign the petition.

Jaguars used to be found as far north as the Grand Canyon, and their historical range may have extended as far north as Oregon and as far east as North Carolina.

For more info, check out the Northern Jaguar Project, which is a conservancy that is trying preserve jaguars in northern Mexico and the United States.

Jaguars are the only true big cats in the Americas. All true big cats cats are either in the genus Panthera or are closely related to  that genus. The closest relative of the cougar is the jaguarundi, which is a very small cat, so cougars are technically not big cats.

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From KYAfield.

These hunters have preserved this wetland to promote waterfowl hunting.

But that’s not all they did.

They can only hunt waterfowl during the appropriate season.

That wetland ecosystem does provide them a good place to shoot ducks and work retrievers.

But other creatures and plants use this ecosystem,  and thus, a little bit of biodiversity is preserved. And all because hunters wanted a good duck hunting area.

Examples of hunters assisting conservation are too numerous to count and certainly too numerous for me to elucidate.

Let’s just say that if you’re a green, you ought to support responsible and ethical hunting. Real tree-huggers also hug hunters.

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Farley Mowat is a Canadian author and conservationist. He perhaps best known for his book Never Cry Wolf, which was made into a lovely Disney film. However, this book has been greatly pilloried by wolf biologists, for Mowat suggested that wolves were living largely on small prey and not killing caribou during the denning season. Of course, some of those scientists created a bit of a straw man and said that Mowat was saying that wolves were living exclusively on mice. However, it is true that Mowat never observed the wolves as intensely as the book suggests. Most of what he knew about wolves comes from the Ihalmiut people, an Inuit people who lived on carbiou meat. These people had a deep respect for the wolf, and one of their religious stories is told in the book. In fact, Never Cry Wolf came right after Mowat’s People of the Deer was published. This book was actually about the plight of Ihalmiut people, who were being driven off their native hunting grounds and “civilized” by the Canadian government.

Mowat wrote a great many children’s books, like Lost in the Barrens, Owls in the Family, and The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be.  The last two are based upon his childhood pets growing up in Saskatoon. (If you’d like to read the real life stories of both check out Mowat’s memoir Born Naked.)

However, my favorite books of his are both of partial historical research. One of these is the Sea of Slaughter. This book is a compendium of Western man’s destruction of “animate creation” in the northeastern part of North America. It includes some interesting speculations. One of these is that bison once ranged to the Atlantic Coast of Canada but were decimated by the Portuguese seeking “buffle hides.” Another is that polar bears were once found as far south as Boston, and one was killed in Delaware Bay in the eighteenth century. He also claims that the St. John’s water dog (it looks something like a Labrador) is actually a dog belonging to the Beothuck people of Newfoundland, but most mainstream histories and archaeological evidence suggests otherwise. However, it is possible that the Newfoundlanders who had the black water dogs were not Beothuck.

And that brings me to my other favorite Mowat book.

In 2000, Mowat published a book of speculative history on the first Europeans to settle the New World. He had previously argued that these were Norse. He even wrote a book on the Norse in North America called Westviking that predated the scientific acceptance of the Norse in Newfoundland at the L’Anse aux Meadows site.

In this book, however, Mowat argues that the first settlers from Europe were the descendants of the ancient Pre- Indo-European peoples of Scotland– the ones who built the brochs. He argues that these people were always referred to by the prefix Alb or Alp. They escaped to the mountains when the Indo-European arrived. Thus, the mountains in the middle of Europe were called the Alps. The hills around Rome were called Alban Hills, where a city called Alba Longa was located. As you may know, Scotland was once referred to as Alba, which, Mowat speculates, is the Gaelic renaming of the land that they conquered. The Picts had previously conquered the broch builders, and the Gaelic-speaking Dalriada Scotti from Ireland had conquered them.

The Broch-builders are called Albans in Mowat’s work. Their main task is to collect walrus tusks, which they sell to European markets. As they move west in search of walrus rookeries and to escape the Picts, the Gaels, and then the Vikings, they come in contact with Iceland, which Mowat says they call “Tili,” and then Greenland and then Newfoundland. They eventually are driven from Greenland and Tili and then are cut off from Europe.

He uses lots of saga, lore, and speculation in this book. I don’t know whether it is true, but it is very interesting. He argues that the Albans call Newfoundland Albania, and that the vikings often referred to this land as such. One viking actually goes to this Albania, where he meets people riding horses and worshipping in Christian Churches. (The other Albania is mostly Muslim and was during viking times).

But where did these people go? Mowat argues that a group of natives who have been pejoratively called “Jackatars” are actually descendants of these broch builders. They are generally thought of a people of mixed French and Mi’kmaq heritage. He thinks they are also part Alban. He implies the black dogs actually came from Scotland originally. (Of course, we actually do know that golden retrievers come from Scotland and descend from St. John’s water dogs.)

I don’t know whether any of Mowat’s theories in that book are true. The theories are almost impossible to prove. However, it is so beautifully written and beguiling that one almost wants to believe. This book is called Farfarers: Before the Norse.

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In some ways, I think I had the ultimate childhood. I grew up on a former working farm– 70 acres of pasture land, woodlands, and disused orchards. This land included a farm pond, which attracted all sorts of interesting creatures.

And I had a grandfather who fancied himself to be quite the self-taught naturalist.  My parents’ house was on the same property as my grandfather’s house, so he was forever bringing me things from his various “zoological expeditions.” His job involved tending natural gas wells in rather remote part of the county, where the land was very wild. He had seen wild beasts of all types, including several escaped/abandoned squirrel monkeys and one large black monkey that was wandering down a forest trail. Several people saw this monkey, but its species was never identified. (It wasn’t a sasquatch, before you ask.)

When I was a little boy, he would bring me things home. I remember several ring-necked and garter snakes that he caught and brought home. I also remember him bringing me the carcass of a dead screech owl that got hit by a car.  He got my lizard collection started, bringing me northern fence lizards and five-lined skinks to fill my home built terrariums.

All of these experiences with the natural world gave me a profound appreciation for the wild beasts and their environment. I had the normal pets that children have– dogs, hamsters, and rabbits– and animals that farm children have– horses, ponies, and muscovy ducks. And all of these animals opened my eyes to their natural history, their domestication, and their behavior.

I was encouraged to wander the farm at an early age. I developed my own interests in animals, and although my parents never really got as into the wild creatures as I did, they at least tolerated my interests.

Today, most children don’t have those experiences, and their knowledge of most other animals comes from the television. Parks are a good compromise, but no urban child gets the opportunity to wander the parks as I wandered the farm.

What we need is community-based outreach groups to really get children interested in animals. However, these things require commitment from various groups, including landowners, who would be needed to provide access to their lands.

We have to create a society for amateur zoology. Not everyone is going to study at the highest level, but I think we’re all better off if we know a bit of it. But the only way to get people interested in it is to have them experience it.

And these experiences shouldn’t be only for those with means. We need nature camps that offer urban residents a chance to experience it.

The more people experience nature as it is, the more they will want to preserve it, and that will serve the totality of life on the planet. And we need passionate adults to share their knowledge with children.

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