Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pleistocene Park 

If a group of US researchers have their way, lions, cheetahs, elephants and camels could soon roam parts of North America, Nature magazine reports.

The plan, which is called Pleistocene re-wilding, is intended to be a proactive approach to conservation.

The initiative would help endangered African animals while creating jobs, the Cornell University scientists say.

Don't you love the way every weird idea gets better if it can be said to "create jobs"?
"If we only have 10 minutes to present this idea, people think we're nuts," said Harry Greene, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University, US.

I daresay. But then...
"But if people hear the one-hour version, they realise they haven't thought about this as much as we have. Right now we are investing all our megafauna hopes on one continent - Africa."

During the Pleistocene era - between 1.8 million to about 10,000 years ago - North America was home to a myriad of mega fauna.

Once, American cheetah (Acinonyx trumani) prowled the plains hunting pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) - an antelope-like animal found throughout the deserts of the American Southwest - and Camelops, an extinct camelid, browsed on arid land.

But man's arrival on the continent - about 13,000 ago, according to one prevalent theory - pushed many of these impressive creatures to extinction.

Their disappearance left glaring gaps in the complex web of interactions, upon which a healthy ecosystem depends. The pronghorn, for example, has lost its natural predator and only its startling speed - of up to about 60mph - hints at its now forgotten foe.

By introducing living counterparts to the extinct animals, the researchers say, these voids could be filled. So, by introducing free-ranging African cheetahs to the Southwest, strong interactions with pronghorns could be restored, while providing cheetahs with a new habitat.

Actually, I think this is a pretty cool idea. But then again, I'm not a farmer in Nebraska. If ranchers are going to resist the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone, farmers are not going to be happy to have cheetah lurking in their corn.

But it is still pretty cool. Any coastal blue-staters out there who want to argue that the red states should import African big cats into their ecosystem?


By Blogger Charlottesvillain, at Thu Aug 18, 08:57:00 AM:

What does Tigerhawk sister think about the introduction of these potentially invasive species? My guess is she would not approve.  

By Blogger Dave Schuler, at Thu Aug 18, 02:21:00 PM:

Don't you love the way every weird idea gets better if it can be said to "create jobs"?

I think that this is more a case of the “Dopeler Effect” i.e. when a lot of dumb ideas come at you at a high rate of speed they seem smarter.  

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