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View Diary: Stephen Colbert rips into black rhino hunters (15 comments)

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  •  in all seriousness, there are lots of debates over (5+ / 0-)

    the whole issue of "harvesting" endangered animals like rhinos, elephants, and tigers.

    The real difficulty with wildlife conservation is the lack of HABITAT. Captive breeding can, with many species, produce an increase in the number of individuals, but the lack of habitat often leads to the awkward problem of having a fairly large number of individuals of an endangered species, but having no place in the wild to PUT them (there are more tigers in zoos worldwide, for instance, than there are in the wild worldwide--to the point where most zoos now give contraceptives to their tigers to PREVENT them from breeding). Even the largest of wildlife refuges and national parks have a finite amount of space, and if the species is allowed to produce more individuals than the carrying capacity of the available land, the result is starvation and death. Because of human actions, animals can no longer move on to another area when their current habitat becomes over-used--they are forced to remain in the same place, which never gets any opportunity to recover. Animals like elephants or rhinos can destroy their entire habitat in a very short time if they exceed their carrying capacity, leading to the decline and death of the entire population (and the habitat destruction also carries a number of other species with it).

    The only method to prevent that is to control the size of the population by removing individuals. Some can be relocated in other parks or refuges, but this presents its own problems--many animals are territorial and will, if relocated, try to make their way back "home". And relocation doesn't solve the basic problem of not enough wild space, when the relocation territory is also filled. For many species, the only remaining option for removing individuals is to "cull" them.

    There is also the economics of endangered species, which is particularly important in animals with a high cash value, like rhinos, elephants and tigers. Supply and demand dictates that the fewer of these animals that reach the market, the higher the price goes, and the more extreme the risks that poachers are willing to take to make that money. There has been serious consideration by many conservationists to deliberately market high-cash animals like rhinos or elephants to raise the supply, lower the price, and lower the incentive for poaching. This also gives direct economic benefits to the local populations, who then view their local wildlife as an economic resource to be protected and conserved (which is also a benefit of local "eco-tourism").

    And then there is the economics of conservation itself. Most conservation programs are seriously underfunded, and are pretty much left to fend for themselves. So it makes good practical sense for conservation programs to utilize culled individuals as an economic resource. The hunting club in this story is correct about one thing--the loss of a small number of individuals over a few years is not a real threat to the population, and as we have seen some individual animals MUST be culled anyway to maintain the habitat. So conservation groups and wildlife refuges have indeed turned this into a source of revenue and resources, by selling permits for hunting, and then by selling the ivory or rhino horn or whatever. That money is then used to fund further anti-poaching and conservation efforts.

    It is not a simple issue, and there are no easy solutions. Which is why the debate never ends.


    •  All thoughful points with merit. However, this (0+ / 0-)

      particular thing with the DALLAS SAFARI CLUB just looks really bad no matter how you look at it. And I dont think a different pin or PR firm would have helped. It would still sound like "Well, we had to kill them in order to save them. And pocket the proceeds".

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