Letter to the Editor - January 11, 2018
Columnist Steve Ferber did an excellent job of presenting both sides of the issue in his article “Endangered species: Should we save them?” in the Dec. 28 edition of The Daniel Island News. My answer is a qualified “Yes!” Ferber included a quote from a Washington Post article by Professor Alexander Pyron, who noted that “Extinction is part of evolution, there’s no need for man to intervene.” Too late, Professor. Man has already intervened in the process of natural selection and evolution, causing the near or actual extinction of many species.
Take the classic example of the American Bison (buffalo), our country’s National Animal. In 1858, there were some 40 million bison in America. Forty years later, bison were virtually extinct. Near extinction did not happen by genetic mutation, an agent of evolution, or by tooth and claw as in survival of the fittest animal species, but by a new top predator, man with guns. Only through the efforts of William Temple Hornaday, founder of the Bronx Zoo, supported by President Theodore Roosevelt, were the few remaining bison used to repopulate this species in the American west, which now number some 30,000.
Having seen herds of bison in Yellowstone Park, I can tell you that it is an awe-inspiring sight. Perhaps bison serve no ecological or economic benefit. But they do remind us of the complexity and creativity of nature, of where we as humans stand in this world, and for some of us, that is enough.
Saving species or not saving them is a very complex issue that cannot be covered in one newspaper article or one “Letter to the Editor.” It is but one part of the macro issue of saving the ecology of our entire planet.
We can’t save every species that is endangered. In most cases, nature should be left to do its thing. But, we should look closely at the efficacy of saving species where man has interfered with nature. As I am told one college student recently said, “I don’t want my kid to see the last zebra.”