One the most glaring weaknesses of the Internet is how mob psychology can focus on symptoms rather than solutions. We see yet another glaring example of this with the virtual fury unleashed on the Minnesota dentist accused of illegally killing a popular lion in Zimbabwe.
By now almost everyone is familiar with the story: Walter Palmer paid $50,000 to hunt a lion, alleged participated in luring the lion out of a protected game park onto private land, botched the kill with a bow or crossbow, killed the lion some forty hours later with a rifle, and attempted to destroy the tracking tag on the body.
As result of the furor on the Internet, Palmer has been forced to close his practice, take down his website, and go into hiding because of death threats. Over 150,000 people have written the White House demanding he be extradited to Zimbabwe. What’s significant, though, is that all this happened prior to Palmer being charged with a crime. He has committed no crime under US law and it is only with the last few days that Zimbabwe has begun formal extradition proceedings. What happened to the presumption of innocence that underpins our system of jurisprudence?
The larger issue, however, is that Walter Palmer is a distraction that in the long run doesn’t really matter. His reputation and means of livelihood have been taken away and he will be forced into a lengthy legal battle over extradition with the possibility of incarceration in a country not known for its commitment to human rights. He will soon be forgotten.
But here’s the problem ignored by the Internet mob: according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 600 lions are killed legally by trophy hunters each year, equating to roughly 2% of the dwindling lion population of about 30,000, an unsustainable rate. The International Fund for Animal Welfare reported that during the period 1999 to 2008, 64% of the “trophies” from those kills were brought home by Americans.
How could we fix this? The US Fish and Wildlife Service currently lists African lions as “threatened” which allows the trade in lion trophies to continue. Changing that designation to “endangered” would ban any such importation. The Service proposed such a change in October but to date nothing has been done.
In the great scheme of life, destroying one hunter who happened to get caught doesn’t do much other than draw temporary attention to the problem. It probably won't be much of a deterrent to other trophy hunters. If you’re serious about stopping the trophy trade, take action. Write your elected representatives and push for a change in the US Fish and Wildlife designation and a ban on the trophy trade. It’s a bit more work than posting a snarky comment on Facebook but it’s how you make a difference.
There have been a number of dire predictions making the rounds on the Internet over the past few days. First there was an excellent article in the New Yorker entitled The Really Big One that talks about a major earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone. Then there were predictions from the National Weather Service that what might be the worst El Niño effect in twenty years is forming in the Pacific and we may be in for a winter of destructive floods. Added to this mix was the prediction that we would experience a “mini ice age” in 2030. And now today comes the prediction that we are due for a massive earthquake on the Hayward fault “any day now.”
If you’re not feeling apprehensive, you’re not paying attention. We’re all going to die!
Well, while it’s certainly true we’re all going to die, these predictions are being blown out of proportion to make it appear that the end of the world is just around the corner. Here are the facts:
Bottom line, most of these threats are real and could occur at any moment but that is the nature of disasters. There is no reason to be more frightened of them today than you were yesterday. What you can do is prepare and not just for these large events but for disaster in general. You know the drill: make plan, build a kit, and get the facts.
Maybe today you’ll actually listen and do something about it.
Last week we had to say good bye to another of our good friends at the dog park, Buster the Beagle, affectionately known to his friends as Little B. Sad as we are at his passing, we take comfort in the fact that Buster lived a full life, having reached the grand age of 17. This achievement is even more remarkable when one hears Buster’s story and realizes he should have been dead years ago.
When Geoff, Buster’s guardian of many years, first met him, Buster was in the possession of a rather unpleasant farmer who told Geoff tersely, “You want this dog? If not, I’m going to take him out and shoot him.” One look at Buster and Geoff knew he couldn’t let that happen.
Sometime later, during an examination by his vet, Geoff found the reason why Buster favored one of his rear legs. It seems someone had shot at him in the past and Buster had shotgun pellets embedded in his leg. The pellets couldn’t be removed, leaving Buster with a permanent limp and trouble with arthritis in his later years.
This early trauma never phased Buster. Even as health issues slowed him in his final years, he never missed an opportunity to go for a walk and or to visit with his friends at the dog park. Every time we thought the end was near, he would rebound and surprise us. We thought he would go on forever.
Buster reminds us that life is what we make of it. His early mistreatment didn’t stop him from finding and loving his best friend and his new family. His limp didn’t stop him from acting like a puppy on occasion. And, while old age slowed him a bit, it didn’t diminish the joy he felt in visiting his friends at the dog park. We will miss Buster but will remember his lesson that quality of life is more important than mere longevity.
Emergency managers have to deal with many unusual problems during a disaster. Floods in particular can cause some very strange situations when things that should remain buried suddenly surface. But a recent flood in Tbilisi, Georgia, posed a problem that, while not necessarily unique, is certainly uncommon.
Torrential rains over the weekend caused a landslide that blocked a local stream. The backed up water eventually broke through, causing the Vere River to overflow and flood the Tbilisi Zoo which is situated along the banks of the river. While many of the animals drowned, a number managed to escape, including a hippopotamus that swam out of its enclosure and was founding eating the leaves of trees in the central Heroes’ Square. Also escaped were a number of bears, lions, tigers, jaguars and wolves. The hippopotamus was recovered after being shot with a tranquilizer dart but a number of the other animals were reportedly shot by police. In all, four lions, three tigers and two jaguars were either drowned or shot while four lions, three tigers, and one jaguar are still missing.
This poses an interesting problem for responders. While no one disputes the need to shoot an animal if it is attacking, how do you balance the competing interests of public safety and the need to recover as many animals as possible? Do you impose a shoot-on-site order? What happens if the animal is not threatening but is hampering rescue efforts by its presence in the area? What message do you send the public?
It’s an interesting problem. Have you checked your zoo’s emergency plans lately?