WILL ZOOS BE ALL THAT’S LEFT?

BY

William A. Gralnick

I love animals. I’m appealing to you do more than love animals as I have begun to do. The last week or so have contained days recognizing the Earth, Wilderness Preservation, and Wildlife preservation. This is about wildlife preservation.

necessary?

Ironically enough my love affair with animals started when I was a little boy. It was summer in the Catskills. My parents took me to Santa Claus Village, which was a petting zoo. There was an employee holding a bat with its wings stretched. It was spooky-looking. He said, “You can pet him but do it from behind on the back of his head. That way he can’t bite you.” I did what he said but the bat hadn’t listened to the instructions. No sooner had I touched the fine hair on the bat’s head, did he swivel his head 180 degrees and nip me on the finger. I was amazed.

Next came feeding baby goats. I was dumbfounded how such little guys not only had horns but that the horns were rock hard.

a forever memory

I could recount endless similar stories. Here’s the last. It created fascination but also disgust. I was at the National Zoo in DC. Passing a camel whose hump was flopped over, I stopped and stared. The camel stared back. THen he spit a huge lungar at me. I’ll save you the description but for something that heavy to travel so far and be projected with no trace of its coming was intriguing. I later learned that camels and llamas do that and it’s best not to stand face to face with them.

Now what about you? Here are a few facts about birds and animals. Over the last ten years the world has lost one billion birds. The catastrophic forest fires that are decimating our forests have killed over a million animals (think Bambi) and who knows how much flora and fauna. Trees that have been with us for a thousand plus years face extinction.

Don’t believe in climate change? Answer me this. Where has Lake Mead gone? Its maga-drop in depth has exposed things not seen since the valley was flooded to create it. That is a tip. The tip is to start stocking up on bottled water. Parts of three states could lose monstrous amounts of water, which in turn will cause major disruption in the farming industry. Should I go on? Certainly

check out the water line!

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The other day, turning a corner where relatives live, I pulled up alongside of six or seven Sand Hill Cranes. So beautiful, so majectic, so sure of themselves, they seemed an curious about me as I was about them. They are soon to be ticketed for extinction. Hopefully your family lives near a zoo that keeps them. Otherwise, your child might never see one save in a book.

Love them or hate them, the shark has been fished onto the endangered list, at least for many of them. The mind-dazzling black and white Orcas of theme park and film fame are in serious trouble. The pod that lives and plays off the coast of British Columbia was made up of a hundreds. There are only 75 left. Not fish who lay hundreds and thousands of eggs, these mammals have one or at best two babies a season. Overcoming declining stats isn’t in their favor.

And salmon? The slashing and damming of rivers has severely restricted the ability of salmon to get back to their spawning grounds. Simply put that means less salmon, which means the cost of getting salmon to the table and dining on it goes up. It also means fewer salmon for the bears who feast on the leaping, sparkling fish to build up enough fat to sustain them through winter hibernation, assuming some knucklehead doesn’t shoot them while they sleep.

disappearing part of the ecosystem

It gets worse. And who could possibly make it worse? Us, of course. The upper mid-western and western states have lost their sensibilities. They’ve gone trophy nuts, lifting laws that protect grizzlies, brown bears, foxes and wolves. These animals are not only being shot by hunters but reports of field and forest rangers tell us that mamas are being shot in their dens, leaving the cubs and pups to starve to death. Animals are being poisoned. That is not only a gruesome death, it means any animals that feeds on carion will also be poisoned. That is how DDT almost wiped out our national symbol the Bald Eagle. Then there are the traps that torture the captured until they bleed to death of are killed by other predators.

And speaking of national symbols, we’re not alone. The Brits are on the verge of wiping out their symbol the badger. They are doing it with festive badger hunts (just like fox hunts) where the dogs chase down the terrified animal and the master dispatches it. If that’s manhood, maybe we ought think more kindly about the LGBTQ folks. They would die before they did such things.

Right now the wolf worries me the most. Wolves live in packs, but those packs are more like families. They roam wide territories. Kill the leader of the pack and you’ve likely killed off the mothers and their children. It is a senseless effort to undo nature. Wolves and herders, wolves and shepherds, wolves and fowl breeders have been playing a cat and mouse game for centuries. No wolf or fox has ever wiped out a farm. No wolf has ever killed so many sheep as to make the herd worthless. You can go double dittoes on that for cattle. Yet there rises in state legislatures such a howl of anguish about these predators that draconion kill permission legislation is passed.

don’t deserve the assaualt on their existence

Granted, there are some awful zoos around, some so awful they should be shut down. We need to do two things at once. One is support our zoos to make them as good as they can possibly be, steering them away from the old animals in a cage formula. The other is to get on the net, Research organizations like the World Wildlife Fund or the Sierra Club (there are scads more), find one that has a program that touches your heart, get involved. Sign petitions, write letters, call political offices. Better yet, give money. Political campaigns raises millions upon millions of dollars on gifts of $25 or less. I give $5.00 to a host of these groups. It will make you feel good, feel like you are in the fight. More importantly, it will help insure that your children and grandchildren will see a wolf in the woods as I did in Alaska, that they will see a fox and her kits on a dirt road as I did in Maine , that they will see flocks of Sandhill Cranes up close and personal and not just in picture books. Your five or 10 dollars will help protect animals, animals so important to the balance of nature and so important in helping us feel like we’re saving defenseless lives along with the world–at least from my perspective.

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No, Bill is not putting animals over children. He thinks we need to extend ourselves and is sure most of his readers have another five bucks to do the same kind of internet seachinig he suggests you do for animals. In fact, he thinks, as a scientist recently said, “There is no planet B.” We all must do more.

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