Spring is in the air and it is the 50th anniversary of the founding of WWF. An organisation that has overseen a lot of humane treatment to wildlife and is lauded by the likes of David Attenborough who has brought so much footage of wildlife in all its beauty and danger to all of us. So, yes, heartfelt good wishes for the 50th anniversary of the founding of WWF.
The BBC has a TV programme called The Big Question aired on Sundays. Yesterday, the programme broadcast a segment on whether endangered animals need legislated rights. Wildlife is protected under international law but does not have ‘rights’ legislation. This particular Big Question was posed in part to signify the half century of existence of the WWF.
The working introduction from the presenter seemed to be that the pandas are dying, leatherbacks are being eaten and big cats are being hunted/poached, all to extinction. Elephants are being hunted and killed by big game hunters and poachers alike, so the story goes. These instances are obviously only highlighted against a huge backdrop of current extinctions and habitat destruction.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a very squishy person when it comes to animals. I can’t help it. They get to me – I hate seeing a big cat catch its dinner – the dinner plate is filled with big, soft brown eyes that – as Attenborough says – make me feel protective. It’s a natural human response. And I love cats too, big and wild and little and domesticated.
It doesn’t make me want to go and kill all the big cats so that all the baby deer and antelope can play. I am able to see and understand the concept of food chains and, critically, where we as humans sit on this chain.
What it doesn’t make me do is bleed all over a TV production floor and say things like ‘animal rights are essential to protect the ecosystem on which we all depend.’ I mean how ill-thought out is this statement? Let me tell you.
I am prepared to state without fear of contradiction that if we as humans controlled our appetites to breed, to rapaciously grab all available and not so available land and over consume available resources, no animal would need rights or protection and we all would, indeed, be able to depend on our ecosystem(s). Normal extinction and evolution imperatives would operate on life, including us. At the moment, we are propelling ourselves inexorably toward our own extinction without waiting for evolution to work its unconscious manipulation on our species. Not so bright of us really. And every other species will make this journey with us because of our behaviour.
Why is it that people seem to wilfully ignore that Homo sapiens is part of this species’ endangering? The bleeding hearts seem to think that the cute panda doesn’t need to learn (in an evolutionary sense) to eat anything else to survive except its own brand of bamboo. Well, in all probability, the panda won’t have the requisite evolutionary time to adapt to any other food source. Man’s increasing need to reallocate the diminishing bamboo forests for his own use means that humans are destroying the panda’s habitat. So the panda dies out but guess what? Homo sapiens doesn’t, well, not yet.
I know that hunting licences are issued at a cost of tens of thousands of which ever currency. I know that some of that licence fee goes to wildlife care, ranger wages and poacher detainment. Okay, that is attempting to save endangered animals. It can’t be done without money. Not in the big world of human kind.
‘Not sustainable in the long run’ cried someone in the audience and she is right, at least in a sense. No attempt to save endangered species is sustainable while ever humans encroach on wildlife habitat. Homo sapiens will continue to do that until he annihilates himself or severely, yea, punitively limits, curtails or otherwise licences his own population growth.
A woman objected to the use of ‘Wildlife Management Plan’ proposed by an audience participant who had hunted elephants. She said that ‘we are all in this together’. Well, I suppose I agree with her but I want to know what’s wrong with a ‘Management Plan’ for Homo sapiens as well as for elephants.
We are too tender and precious to apply conscious management to our own breeding and our present global plight is the result of such non management. Something is skewed in the way we seem to view ourselves as distinct from other animals. I hope it isn’t unthinking genetic obeisance or supreme arrogance – could it be religious precepts?
The single common thread running through this whole debate about endangered species and their right to continue to exist is the proliferation of our species and the effect we are having (cumulatively) on our global habitat. This is a finite planet and we seem to be chewing it and everything on it up at a most alarming rate.
The debate devolves into words, words and more words producing the longest talk fest ever (with the possible exception of the climate change debate). These debates should include the realisation that at the heart of species’ existence or extinction is the burgeoning and largely uncontrolled growth of one intelligent, rapacious and ruthless species, Homo sapiens.