Save Endangered Species; Make them Pets?

Tiger quoll giving tongue

Tiger quoll giving tongue,originally uploaded by pierre poliquin.

Australian biologist Michael Archer is hellbent to stop or reverse human-caused extinctions one way another. First he tried resurrecting the Thylacine, the mascot of tragically extinct animals, using DNA from museum specimens. Now, according to Time, he’s close to getting permission to let regular people keep endangered species as pets so they won’t go extinct in the wild.Archer, a professor at the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences at the University of New South Wales, has been pushing this idea to the public for a while, as this 2000 article from the Telegraph shows. He told both publications something like: “No animal that human beings have turned into a domestic pet has ever died out. It’s the ones we don’t value that become extinct.”In particular Archer wants to try to save the quoll, a small marsupial with the spotted coat of a fawn. Quolls eat bugs, grubs and mice, but they’ve been wiped out by fox and cats. Cats often carry toxoplasmosis, which makes female quolls infertile, according the Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary, which that has been arduously them since 1986. Predictably, as when anybody wants to try some last-chance idea to help an animal, another animal lover pops up to criticize and impede them. In this case, animal rights activists worry it will play into the hands of the pet industry. More seriously scientists worry whether people will be able to provide appropriate homes.Captive breeding has already saved or helped

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Happy Thylacine Day!

It’s not only Labor Day, it’s Thylacine Day! Australia has a day to pay attention to threatened species, marking the sad anniversary of the death of the last Thylacine.

The Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger, is a creature so odd-looking you would think it was a cryptozoology hoax if there weren’t so much evidence it really existed. Thylacinus cynocephalus is a striped, marsupial carnivore that looks like a zebra – shiba inu mix. The Tassie Tiger was wiped out from Australia 3,000 years ago, but survived on Tasmania until shortly after people showed up. Sheep farmers killed them off, shooting the last wild one in 1930. On this day in 1936 the last Thylacine died in Hobart Zoo.

But since then people have said they’ve seen Thylacines in remote Tasmania and in Australia. Chris Rehberg’s blog Where Light Meets Dark put together a fantastic map of all thesightings here since the supposed extinction. Motion-activated cameras have turned up nothing. Yet. An effort to clone the Thylacine from cells of a preserved fetus have also been failures. So far. (And people who think the Thylacine is still out there don’t want it cloned.)

I went to see Jane Goodall speak about her new book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink, which is about how passionate biologists are rescuing or rediscovering animals on the edge of extinction. (Rehberg calls the study of extinct animals Eclipsazoology.) It’d be great if the Thylacine, instead of

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Oz Outraged at Canned Hunt for Rare Antelope– Which Texas Does in Droves

photo courtesy of Cats 2007Australians this week were outraged when they realized the Taronga Zoo in Dubbo, NSW, is selling off blackbuck antelopes, which are endangered in their native India, to canned hunting ranches. Meanwhile, these kind of black buck hunts go on non-stop in Texas and nobody cares.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Bob McComb, owner of the Dongadale Deer Park and Stud, bought 24 blackbuck antelope from the zoo for between AU$160 and $300 (US$130 – $250). (Later the zoo admitted selling 84 animals to a bunch of these hunt clubs. Sure seems like the zoo was letting them breed to get cute babies to attract visitors.) The deal is he can only breed the ones he got from the zoo, but he’ll “hunt” their offspring. He’s confident he’ll be able to get approval to do it, then charge thousands of dollars per kill. Australians were suitably taken aback. They called for the zoo’s animal welfare chief to quit. And New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees said No, he wasn’t going to suddenly allow these widely-ridiculed hunting ranches–even though it’ll make it hard to corral conservatives on other issues. India sent Bollywood star Salman Khan to jail for shooting one of these lanky animals. The eight year court case may now be a movie. Wildlife preserves like the ABOHAR in Punjab are carefully coaxing their numbers up. Nature worshipping Bishnois protect them. Meanwhile, back on the ranch in Texas, canned hunting is a big business.

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