Hope for the Animals and their World: Jane Goodall

Extinct. Dead as a dodo. Gone like the dinosaurs. My grandson, with his four year old’s acceptance of pseudo- science, and having watched “Jurassic Park” many times, tells me that we can make new dinosaurs because a mosquito can bite them and get blood and then get stuck in amber and we can get the blood out and make a new dinosaur from the stuff in the blood. Except we can’t. Not now and probably not ever. Of course, most adults would not want to share our world with T rex and velociraptor. Many adults don’t want to share “our” world with tigers or gorillas, or, in my recent home turf, with spotted owls.  Many of us have seen photos of the earth from space but have not adjusted our world view to see the intricate interactions between the elements, the flora and fauna that make up a whole, where all things are interdependent. Do we really imagine a planet with, say, 12 billion humans, no large animals, no krill in the oceans, too little fresh water, no ice caps… would be comfortable or even tolerable to humans? Or do we imagine a benevolent Dr Frankenstein who can invent it all over again? We are in the middle of a great extinction, and though the earth and new species may survive it seems like hubris to assume we will be one of the prospering species, even though our strength has been in our adaptability. Jane Goodall has loved the chimpanzees of Gombe all her adult life. Many, like me, read about the named individuals she followed through their lives and generations, and enjoyed finding out how like and unlike us these primate cousins are. It was the threat to the future of the chimpanzees which made her aware of the connections between the well-being of different creatures in an ecosystem. People and chimpanzees, and the forest that nurtures them, all need to be conserved. Goodall now spends most of her year travelling and inspiring people to appreciate and protect the wonders around us. This book, co-authored with Thane Maynard and Gail Hudson, describes many species pushed to the brink of extinction by habitat loss, introduced predators and so on, but then rescued in captive breeding or in the wild by individuals who put a lifetime into their struggle, and by many unknown workers behind the scenes. There are chapters on many animals and birds and invertebrates  (even though most of us do not get emotional about beetles and fleas.) All the web of life is inter-connected. The vultures’ decline -97% in a decade-in India, for example, led to an increase in rat and feral dog populations, which in turn led to an increase in rabies to 30,000 peoples’ deaths  in a year. I am aware of rescued species. I have watched brown pelicans skimming the waves when they come annually to Humboldt County. My daughter’s friend in elementary school did a report on the Black-Footed Ferret, endangered in the American prairies: at the time the children were doing their animal reports, (1981) a black-footed ferret, thought extinct, had just been found in the wild, and from that discovery, the species has been brought back. This book has heartening stories about this and other successes: enough to give hope. I end with a quotation from it: “It is true that we are experiencing the ‘sixth great extinction on earth’, with thousands of species (mostly small, endemic invertebrates and plants) disappearing, forever, every year. And while we sink into despair or anger as we see how our own prolific and self-centred species continues to destroy, there is yet this feeling of hope…. And the stories we share here, reports of fascinating new species discovered or rediscovered, give me new strength to face and fight the challenges that threaten our still-mysterious, still-magical planet”

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One Response to Hope for the Animals and their World: Jane Goodall

  1. ahuntca says:

    are you sure your grandson is not right… perhaps he will be the one to do it… as to whether that is a good thing or not, that is another question. I’ve seen a number of iguana’s running loose and they are quite big enough for me in the lizard category… It is quite an act of faith/hope to believe that with what little we can do it is enough to make the difference… and that even in the midst of extinction and climate change we and our planet are cared for and loved. But does that mean that it will all come out right… I’m not sure… blessings from the north coast


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