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Old 08-18-2005, 11:05 AM   #1
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African animals imported to North America ...

Group Wants to Bring African Animals to North America
By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA, AP

DENVER (Aug. 17) - If a group of prominent ecologists have their way, lions and elephants could someday be roaming the Great Plains of North America.

The idea of transplanting African wildlife to this continent is being greeted with gasps and groans from other scientists and conservationists who recall previous efforts to relocate foreign species halfway around the world, often with disastrous results.

But the proposal's supporters say it could help save some species from extinction in Africa, where protection is spotty and habitats are vanishing. They say the relocated animals could also restore the biodiversity in North America to a condition closer to what it was before humans overran the landscape more than 10,000 years ago.

Most modern African species never lived on the American prairie, the scientists acknowledge. But some of their biological cousins like mastodons, camels and saber-toothed cats, roamed for more than 1 million years alongside antelope and herds of bison until Ice Age glaciers retreated and humans started arriving.

The rapid extinction of dozens of large mammal species in North America - perhaps due to a combination of climate change and overhunting - triggered a landslide of changes to the environmental landscape. Relocating large animals to vast ecological parks and private reserves would begin to repair the damage, proponents say, while offering new ecotourism opportunities to a withering region.

The scientists' plan appears in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature. It is attracting interest from some influential circles, including media mogul Ted Turner, America's largest private landowner. He owns huge ranches in several states to support his commercial bison operation and personal conservation initiatives.

But the plan is also generating criticism on both sides of the conservation debate.

Media mogul Ted Turner is interested in the idea, but many scientists say it's misguided.

"It is not restoration to introduce animals that were never here," said University of Washington anthropologist Donald K. Grayson. "Why introduce Old World camels and lions when there are North American species that could benefit from the same kind of effort?"

Others wonder whether people would support African lions making a home on the range, given the opposition to the reintroduction of native wolves in the rural West.

"Just when you think the world has gotten as weird as it can get, something like this comes along," said Steve Pilcher, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

"I wonder how many calves or lambs it would take to feed a family of lions for a month?" Pilcher mused. "We sort of know what it takes for wolves, but something tells me we would be in a whole new ball game."

Some wildlife conservationists said the idea would further damage the prospects of both threatened species and Africa's hopes for sustainable economic development.

"Such relocations would affect future tourism opportunities for Africa," said Elizabeth Wamba, the East Africa spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Nairobi, Kenya. "The welfare of the animals would have been reduced by transporting and exposing them to different eco-climatic conditions."

Critics also point to calamitous relocations of foreign species in Australia. Rabbits brought from Europe swarmed across parts of the Outback, and noxious cane toads brought from South America to control bugs in sugar cane fields killed native wildlife.

The authors of the new plan say they are not discouraged.

"We are not saying this is going to be easy," said Cornell University ecologist Josh Donlan, the lead author of the proposal. "There are huge and substantial risks and obstacles."

The plan grew from a retreat at Turner's New Mexico ranch - a 155,000-acre property in the foothills of the Gila Mountains that contains a mix of ecosystems ranging from desert grasslands to pine forests.

Ecologists are using the ranch to experiment with reintroducing the Bolson tortoise to the region. These 100-pound burrowers were once found across the Southwest, but now survive only in a corner of northern Mexico's Chihuahuan Desert.

The scientists' discussion expanded to consider long-extinct Pleistocene species that have modern counterparts elsewhere in the world.

For example, a larger American cheetah once stalked pronghorn on these lands, with both species evolving special features that enabled them to accelerate to 60 mph. Today, pronghorns rarely are chased, except by the occasional pickup truck.

In Africa, modern cheetahs are being exterminated as vermin, with fewer than 2,000 remaining in some countries. Relocation could help both species retain important traits, the plan's proponents say.

Other living species that are counterparts to Pleistocene-era animals in North America include wild horses and asses, Bactrian camels, elephants and lions.

Donlan concedes that lions would be a tough sell to Americans.

"Lions eat people," he said. "There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators."


08/17/05 13:44 EDT

http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/arti...00010000000001
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Old 08-18-2005, 11:15 AM   #2
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Re: African animals imported to North America ...

Quote:
Originally posted by Irvine511
Donlan concedes that lions would be a tough sell to Americans.

"Lions eat people," he said. "There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators."
Apparently more people are trampled on by angry hippos than eaten by lions. Or at least so Animal Park (a UK documentary show) tells me.
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Old 08-18-2005, 11:16 AM   #3
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Can we fully understand the potential consequences of such a move? There may be a noble effort to "save" one species, but it could be at the expense of others.

I believe the Northeast has had this problem with non-indigenous fish introduced to lakes and ponds in the area.
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Old 08-18-2005, 11:39 AM   #4
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Lions are my favorite animals But seeing them roaming around here would be kind of...um...scary.
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Old 08-18-2005, 12:01 PM   #5
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I know the intentions are good, but I personally do not think it is a good idea, merely because we're talking about introducing a foreign species. And, frankly, I don't care if these animals have a Pleistocene-era equivalent in North America; that era is long gone.

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Old 08-18-2005, 12:03 PM   #6
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It seems to me that the gradual extinction of certain species is just part of nature's natural cycle of things.
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Old 08-18-2005, 12:19 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by joyfulgirl
It seems to me that the gradual extinction of certain species is just part of nature's natural cycle of things.
I have mixed feelings about this...

On the one hand, you want to save the cute and cuddly(or not-so-cuddly)_____(insert species here).

On the other hand, extincton is part of life...

The main difference seems to be who or what is causing an extinction.
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Old 08-18-2005, 12:24 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by joyfulgirl
It seems to me that the gradual extinction of certain species is just part of nature's natural cycle of things.
But not where species are becoming extinct because of human activity....
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Old 08-18-2005, 12:25 PM   #9
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Isn't human activity natural? Are we unnatural? Or just self-aware?
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Old 08-18-2005, 12:31 PM   #10
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I don't know that I'd describe human activity as natural or unnatural, but I do think that such things as deforestation and pollution are having a devastating impact on the environment, including on endangered species.
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Old 08-18-2005, 12:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
Isn't human activity natural? Are we unnatural? Or just self-aware?


Well, i sit here hidding from the heat in a airconditioned room waiting for my girlfriend to come home and we will go out for greek food tonight. And than i read this,...thanks
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Old 08-18-2005, 01:04 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees


But not where species are becoming extinct because of human activity....
Maybe, but I'm not sure.
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Old 08-18-2005, 01:11 PM   #13
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Maybe, but I'm not sure.
I guess, but I look at examples like the snow leopard which is now threatened with extinction because of human activities (hunting, traps, more farming means less land available etc) and I can't see how we can describe that as just part of nature.
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Old 08-18-2005, 01:21 PM   #14
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This is a dumb idea.

It would be better to put the money and energy into encouraging Africa to engage in species preservation. Eco-tourism has proven to be a success in places like Kenya, and would be a win-win situation for everyone.

Everyone who's taken a basic Ecology class knows that the rate which humans are consuming resources is unsustainable, and unmatched in any other era of Earth's history. It's natural for species to gradually become extinct, but its the speed and the carelessness which is dangerous. Most of the time, we only know how interconnected the planet is when something has gone wrong, like the introduction of a foreign species.

There's a reason there are lions in Africa and not in North America, and it's not smart to change that. I would rather they concentrate on local species, like wolves. (I love how the cattlemen had to throw their two cents in. )
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Old 08-18-2005, 01:23 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees
I don't know that I'd describe human activity as natural or unnatural, but I do think that such things as deforestation and pollution are having a devastating impact on the environment, including on endangered species.
Obviously, humans have an impact on the environment of other creatures. But so do other animals - some devastating to species.
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