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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why would you bowl for a rhinoceros? AAZK's Bowling For Rhinos

Bowling for Rhinos BFR logo




Bowling for Rhinos (BFR) is an annual event organized through the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) and run locally through ~55 groups of zoo keeper volunteers around North America.  Each AAZK local chapter which participates sets up a bowl-a-thon (or similar event) which usually also involves an auction.  Donated auction items and ticket/donation proceeds (~ a quarter million dollars each year) are split between 3 different rhinoceros refuges: the Kenyan Lewa Wildlife Conservancy (who have white rhinos Ceratotherium simum and black rhinos Diceros bicornis), Indonesian Ujung Kulon National Park (who have Javan rhinos Rhinoceros sondaicus), & the Indonesian Bukit Barisan Selatan & Way Kambas National Parks (who have Sumatran rhinos Dicerorhinus sumatrensis).  The entire enterprise is run by volunteers and all administrative costs are covered through local chapters from other funds, so all proceeds go directly towards funding parks.

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Monday, May 30, 2011

And the winner for Coolest Nose On An Antelope... Saiga Conservation Alliance

Saiga Conservation Alliance logo

I will start off my conservation blogging efforts spotlighting a group which protects a species which was once extremely common throughout grassland & semi-arid deserts within central Asia.  The saiga Saiga tatarica is an antelope species which looks like something inside a Star Wars film, and has become critically endangered through poachers, who harvest horns for the Chinese medicine trade and meat.  The population has plummeted- it is only 4% of its size during the 1970's.   Since saiga sporting horns are targeted, most animals killed are males.  Consequently, the saiga's situation is much worse than just having 4% remaining; since the sex ratio is so strongly skewed towards females, there are not enough males around to breed all remaining females, so the population's effective size is far smaller regarding breeding potential.  This is a serious issue concerning recovery potential.  Use the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© and we see that losing 96% of the population = having all humans die through the North & South American, African, Australian, Antarctic, and European continents, and all people throughout Asia except those inhabiting Indonesia & Malaysia.  Seriously- 96%.  I do not have words...  And that's only the population decline since the 1970's- long before then the saiga's range contraction was already substantial.  It is not possible to get much worse and still be tenable for the saiga.

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What I hope to accomplish, and the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom©


“Why start a blog about conservation?” you may well ask.  “Hasn't enough been said concerning conservation?  Aren't you just sullying the already murky internet's depths with something which has already been done?”  Perhaps, we will see.  This may be useful, or it may not be, but I feel there is a need and I will see if I can help fill that need.  If not, then at least I have tried, and you can't fault a person for trying (except, I suppose poor little Rebecca Black shows that isn't necessarily true) and in a worst case scenario at least I won't actually harm any conservation efforts.  If only one person motivated through this blog does something, anything at all, then I feel like my labors here will not have been for naught.

One way which I hope to add something is through providing a desperately needed scale.  Species population collapses around the globe are happening on scales which we simply can't visualize because our little primate brains (which originally evolved so we could determine how to escape  predators & find food & mates, not process numbers in the hundreds, never mind millions or billions) cannot grasp numbers so large.  Consequently, when I look at population declines among animal species, I will demonstrate what would happen among the human population if we lost a similar percentage of our species.

As an example, when we hear the white-rumped vulture Gyps bengalensis, formerly possibly the most abundant large bird of prey globally, has experienced a 99.9% population decrease over the past 10-15 years, it sounds horrible, but it is impossible to visualize what that really means.  When we use the Thomas Knight Comparative Population Decimation Scale of Doom© we can grasp the scale a bit better, because we are looking at how many humans would be exterminated while create a similar disaster within our own species.  Regarding this particular case, all North Americans would be dead.  So would South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe's entire populations.  The Antarctic scientists - also all gone.  Which leaves Asia.  Exterminate them all also, all except the few people who live within teeny tiny (zoom until you see it- then look at the scale) Hong Kong.  This is what would be left: people who currently live within Hong Kong.  Everyone else would be dead.  Visualization is still hard, but it helps make what has happened regarding white-rumped vultures over the past 10-15 years a little more real.  The astoundingly, mind-blowingly horrific genocides and wars which humans have committed against other humans have been horrible, but those pale through comparison when you see how we treat other species which share our planet.  But this blog's purpose is not to condemn people who destroy those species, but celebrate people who stop the declines and help them do their work.  So join with me and help give these people & organizations some love/publicity/money/support!
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