I want you to think of an animal. I want the animal you think of to be THE animal, the one that shows the best of nature.
Now some people will be clever and say humans, or some type of a pet like cats or dogs. Others will immediately think of far-away animals like lions, tigers, and zebras or even possibly the enormous photo of a bald eagle you just saw not 10 seconds ago.
I wonder though, what effect do these extremes of familiarity have on the world around us?
In the conservation community this quote by Baba Dioum gets thrown around often
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught.”
What does it say about the state of conservation education in the U.S. that we only picture pets, which we have too many of, and foreign animals that we have no daily interaction with, unless we go to a zoo?
Not to draw patriotism into the matter, but when it comes to wild animals, why do none of ours seem to matter?
If you want to find endangered animals look no further than your backyard, where Mexican Grey Wolves and Black Bears used to roam. Oklahoma is also home to 4 species of endangered bats. The Lesser Prairie Chicken and Texas horned lizard, which were staples of the Oklahoman biosphere 50 years ago, are now difficult to find, even for the researchers keeping tabs on their dwindling numbers.
Even in the greater area of the U.S. we consistently fail our disappearing amphibians, reptiles, insects, and mammals.
And it’s not that evolution has turned the tide against these animals, they are often pushed out of areas by farmers or development, which is fine. Human beings need space to live, and areas to grow food. But this is America, we’ve got plenty, and I mean really the last measurement puts our excess land area at just under 2 billion acres in the United States alone!
However, if I’m being honest the logistics of the problem don’t worry me, I know it’s an easily doable task to set aside land for these wild populations.
What worries is me is that the desire of U.S. citizens to save these species is nonexistent. To paraphrase, we will only save what we understand. I fear that by the time we pay attention to the animals we really live with, they may be gone. Leaving us only with tigers, zebras, cats and dogs.
Except the Bald Eagle, that sucker has been a conservation success story and symbol of american pride for years already.
So take pride in the bio-diversity and beauty of the U.S., and care about it. The same values of diversity and compassion, that demand we protect these species are uniquely american. We should keep it that way.
Anyway, times up, gotta go, just a haiku and then I’m through.
Magical tales to show
The wonders we know