Hey everyone! I wrote a blog or two a while ago and I’m back again! For those of you who are new followers- welcome! This blog is all about how conservation doesn’t always focus on the issues that need attention. I’m not an expert, but I’ll try to offer you a brief survey of some topics of concern, and hopefully entertain you along the way. Thanks for reading! -Chelsey
Pandas. The adorable animal is a symbol of peace, a part of Asian culture, and can boast that it is the face of companies such as World Wildlife Fund and Panda Express Chinese Restaurant. Now, let me first say, I have nothing against any of that: peace is nice, I love WWF, Panda Express is delicious, and I find Asian culture fascinating …except Taiji....and shark fin soup....alright maybe that was a bad example.... but I did enjoy the lizard from Mulan!
Anyway, my issue with pandas has to do with society's focus on large mammals, especially the cute furry ones. We pay so much attention to certain animals, such as polar bears, lions, and pandas, when so many other living creatures need our attention, and desperately.
Dolphins and Whales
There is so much controversy and attention on dolphins and whales now because of the movie Blackfish, making cetaceans in captivity a hot topic. Can we steer this attention to the ones in the wild? Their wild cousins are victims of Japan's glorious practice of slaughtering dolphins in Taiji, and if you're reading this blog you probably know more than you ever wanted to about that. If marine parks did not have dolphins or whales in captivity, the Taiji murderers would not have a monetary incentive- a single dolphin can fetch over $150,000. Without strong conservation efforts, and a stop to large slaughters, the future looks bleak for these animals.
I can’t think of a creature more misunderstood than sharks. A lot of people think they are mindless man-eaters. However, the International Shark Attack File reports 8 deaths from sharks in the US from 2000 to 2007. Cats, horses, pigs, cows and raccoons were responsible for 655 fatalities. Take a second to digest that, 8 vs. 655. 8, which is under 10, and 655, which is over 600- so those animals are more than 60 times more deadly! Our fear of sharks is completely unfounded, and unfortunately, this top predator is declining fast due to overfishing and finning, and its disappearance would affect every living thing in the ocean. Shark conservation groups like Shark Angels (http://sharkangels.org/) and the Shark Research Institute (http://www.sharks.org/) are trying their best to raise awareness and save these creatures, but it’s hard to gain traction when the animals are embedded in media-spurred stereotypes. It also doesn’t help that, along with shark finning, sharks are the victims of atrocities like the Australian cull. What if Australia was culling kangaroos instead? Or koalas? The world would be in an uproar, and why? Because koalas and kangaroos are furry, cute, and likeable, and sharks are not.
Overfishing. “Over” as in too much and “fishing” as in catching and killing fish. Fish are a huge food source for humans, and we don’t focus on them as much as we should. For proper management, we need: protection of habitat, controls on by-catch, safe catch limits, and strict enforcement. As a consumer, you have a responsibility to chose seafood that is caught in a sustainable manner. I love Seafood Watch, and if you don’t know what that is, check it out at http://www.seafoodwatch.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx. They even have an app so you can access their seafood guide on your smartphone! If you haven’t already, read my previous blog that focused on overfishing, especially the declining numbers of the Bluefin Tuna.
Frogs and their cousins are all in grave danger because of the chytrid fungus. The fungus embeds in the keratin of their skin and inhibits them from performing gas exchange and obtaining certain salts and nutrients. The subsequent change in their electrolyte levels kills them. It’s frightening because amphibians play a huge role in the ecosystem. From my experience talking to people, most of the public is unaware of this situation, and that needs to change. Just because frogs aren’t fuzzy doesn’t mean we should care about them less! If you want to read more, Jeff Corwin has some interesting tales about his work with frogs: http://fightforthefrogs.com/corwin.html.
In conclusion, I think it’s wrong to pay more attention to the conservation of cute and fuzzy animals. Now, we can avoid all the issues with animal stereotyping if we just focus on saving habitat. Say we put lots of effort in preserving the mangrove forests in the Florida Keys. Not only do we help the endangered and cutesy wootsy Key Deer, we help conserve every other animal in that habitat! That's great for everyone. So please, please keep an open mind when it comes to different animal species. Just because sharks look scary doesn’t mean we should kill them. Just because frogs are slimy doesn’t mean we should let them die off. These animals need our attention and our help, no matter what our opinion of them is. That is why I hate pandas, and why you should too.
Congratulations! You’ve made it to the end of my blog! Just for that, you get a cookie. Actually, I don’t have any cookies. But know that if I did, I would give you one, because that’s how much I appreciate you reading my blog. Conservation is cooperative, so spread the word, talk to your friends and family, and we can make a difference. Thank you for reading.
So ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, there you have it. I completely agree with Chelsey that we as humans focus entirely too much on the cute and fuzzy and not really on the animals that are most important to their environment. While I am by no means in support of abandoning panda conservation or anything like that, I am in heavy favor of focusing less on them and other big cute and fuzzy animals that do not greatly impact their environment. Without pandas, sure bamboo forests may be bigger than ever before. Without sharks, the oceans will never survive. The loss of cetaceans would also greatly affect the environment as well. So in conclusion of this final blog before I leave for vacation I have to say this. Regardless as to which animals you love or don't love keep in mind that many of them are incredibly important to their respective ecosystems. Think about a world without those ugly tuna and sharks. Think about a world without the majestic tiger and lion. It's not a place that I'd want to live. Without pandas and certain other cute and fuzzy animals, life would continue on as these animals are not apex predators. Take away the top link anywhere and the food chain will in time collapse into a royal mess.
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