Tuesday, August 9, 2011

To the Baiji

To the baiji -- sorry I never knew ye and no one else can ever know you again.

A recent National Academy of Sciences study noted that at least three species – the Caribbean monk seal, Atlantic gray whale and Steller’s sea cow – became extinct because of hunting for their fur, blubber and meat during the 19th and 20th centuries. The most recent extinction, declared in 2008, was the baiji, a type of porpoise, from the Yangtze River in China.

The study also announced 20 ideal places to protect marine mammals and 11 that were "irreplaceable" including the Hawaiian Islands, Galapagos Islands, Amazon River, Yangtze River, Indus River, Ganges River and the Kerguelen Islands in the southern Indian Ocean.

All of nature is arguably irreplaceable but the list should be a good conversation starter. Besides, people think in terms of places, not ecosystems or even single species, so this puts conservation in an effective context.

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