For the Record Archive

We Must Look To The Past
To Prevent Future Extinctions of Wildlife

October 2015.  As the human species has evolved, we developed the unique ability to organize, adapt and learn – yet we still manage somehow to focus much of our efforts on waging war on each other, on the wildlife around us and the environment on which humans and animals all depend. As an admirer of animals and the environment, it saddens me to know that with our ability to fly to the moon and back, we still find ways to destroy our future by destroying wildlife and their natural habitat.

As Homo Sapiens evolved over the last 200,000+ years from gatherers to lethal hunters, wildlife and the environment has suffered terrible losses. With the two world wars came an incredible progression of lethal weapons that slaughtered men as well as animals by the tens of millions. Nations spend billions of dollars annually to create, maintain and expand military stockpiles specifically designed to kill, maim and destroy anything within its sights in the most efficient manner possible. Since I last checked, none of our wildlife cousins had designed advanced weapons to kill their own kind the way we do. Are we truly the advanced species on Earth? If so, that is a very scary prospect knowing full well what we have done not just to our planet but to ourselves as well!

When will this madness end? When will mankind come to its senses and recognize the terrible impact we are having on our natural resources? Must everything in life center around money and materialism? Will greed be our defining legacy? It no longer makes sense to me.

Erin Schneider wrote an in-depth article on April 24, 2014, stating that, over the last 100 years ten animal species have become extinct due to changes in the environment, poaching, and/or declining food sources. Those animals thought to be extinct are:

1. California Grizzly Bear (1924)
2. Newfoundland Wolf (1930)
3. Tasmanian Tiger (1936)
4. Bali Tiger (1940)
5. Guam Flying Fox (1968)
6. Cuban Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (1990)
7. Jamaican Giant Galliwasp (1996)
8. Zanzibar Leopard (1996)
9. Baiji River Dolphin (2006)
10. Pyrenean Ibex (2000, 2009)

Was their extinction inevitable? The Baiji is a river dolphin that inhabited China’s river systems, mainly along the Yangtze River. China’s push to quickly modernize drastically changed the environment where the Baiji once flourished. As the environment changed and natural food sources dwindled, the Baiji could no longer survive. It seems logical to assume then that Chinese modernization took precedence over any concerns regarding the welfare of the Baiji. That said, were the Chinese so busy that they knowingly allowed the Baiji to disappear? Apparently so!

The California Grizzly did not fare so well, either – even though it is the symbol of California and the centerpiece of its state flag! The California Grizzly stood eight feet tall and weighed nearly a ton. When the Europeans started settling California, there were an estimated 10,000 California Grizzlies. Unfortunately, they were no match for the greed and indifference of the miners who flooded the state in the Gold Rush of 1849. The bears were systematically shot and poisoned to protect their livestock.

I certainly hope my humble opinion will cause people to reflect for a moment and accept the awesome responsibility each one of us has to protect and preserve our wildlife and environment for future generations. How are we supposed to explain to our children why so many of our wildlife species have disappeared? The usual answer always seems to revolve around the absurd notion that “they could not adapt.” That excuse is preposterous if not scientifically invalid! Until we recognize our past transgressions and the mistakes we have made, the sad truth is that we will continue to preside over many more unnecessary extinctions as we destroy the remaining wildlife and their natural habitat.

Glen Ota, Assistant Director