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Reintroduce Megafauna to North America? 855

Posted by samzenpus
from the lions-and-tigers-and-bears dept.
sneakers563 writes "A team of scientists is proposing reintroducing large mammals such as elephants, lions, cheetahs and wild horses to North America to replace populations lost 13,000 years ago. The scientists say that parks could be set up as breeding sanctuaries for species of large wild animals under threat in Africa and Asia, and that such ecological history parks could be major tourist attractions. 'Africa and parts of Asia are now the only places where megafauna are relatively intact, and the loss of many of these species within this century seems likely,' the team said."
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Reintroduce Megafauna to North America?

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  • The Wilds (Score:5, Informative)

    by rlp (11898) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:24AM (#13346752)
    The Wilds [thewilds.org] in Cumberland, OH has 10,000 acres with African, Asian, and North American animals.
    • Re:The Wilds (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rude Turnip (49495)
      Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey has a huge drive-through safari with all of these animals, as well. It's almost a right of passage around here to have an ostrich eat at the gasket around your car window.
    • Re:The Wilds (Score:5, Interesting)

      by killmenow (184444) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:52AM (#13347011)
      I was at The Wilds not long ago. In answer to the question: "Will you ever have Elephants here?" the guide said, "No."

      She went on to explain that, although they have paddocks with high electric fences to keep their current populations where they want them, they are inadequate for elephants. In other words, electric fence or not, elephants will just roll right on through. The investment, she said, needed to implement proper barriers to keep the elephants from just trampling into whatever area of the park they so desire (and to keep them from simply exiting the park) is too cost prohibitive to make any economic sense.

      So, long story short, no elephants at the wilds. She did say they were considering getting some big cats. I don't know if she meant tigers or lions or what. Personally, I hope they get ligers. They're my favorite animal.
    • Re:The Wilds (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Otter (3800)
      Texas is full of ranches like this, for hunting or just for the fun of having the animals.

      Breeding big cats isn't particularly difficult and if anything there's a huge excess of them in captivity. Most of them are mutts that are useless for conservation purposes.

  • by Takehiko (20798) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:24AM (#13346753)
    Sounds like a zoo to me...
  • Help me out here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cimmer (809369) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:25AM (#13346761)
    This sounds great in theory, but where in the US are we going to put free roaming lions so they will be no danger to persistantly encroaching civilization?
    • by hivebrain (846240) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:28AM (#13346796)
      My vote is for Crawford, Texas.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Well I don't know about the lions, but you could ride an elephant to work. Just add some cup-holders and you have a nice SUE (Sport Utility Elephant).
    • by SB5 (165464) <freebirdpat.hotmail@com> on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:41AM (#13346909)
      I would say Los Angeles or Washington D.C.

      Both are very far from any known civilisation.
    • This sounds great in theory, but where in the US are we going to put free roaming lions so they will be no danger to persistantly encroaching civilization?

      North America is no stranger to large, free roaming, wild cats. [wikipedia.org] Most of the time, we get along just fine (read: leave each other alone).

      • But there's still a risk of danger [mycathatesyou.com].
      • Re:Help me out here (Score:5, Interesting)

        by (H)elix1 (231155) <slashdot.helix@nOSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday August 18, 2005 @10:15AM (#13347788) Homepage Journal
        North America is no stranger to large, free roaming, wild cats. Most of the time, we get along just fine (read: leave each other alone).

        Oh man... I was working as a cereal chemist in the summer/fall while I was on 'summer' break between my freshman and sophomore year of university. One of the things was collecting grain samples during harvest since the U of MN started later than North Dakota State University.

        So I was collecting barley and wheat samples where ND, SD, and MN meet. Talked to the farmer and he pointed out the grain bin I could snag a sample. Drive out, pull out my bags, look up... and see what looked like tiger... about 300 yards out. Scrambled for my camera, but it was gone by the time I had the lens off. (better judgment off) So after a few minutes of nothing I get out of the car, climb to the top of the bin, collect my samples, and look around. No tiger. A couple more stops and I would go home for the weekend.

        Walking back to the car -*POW*- I find myself face down in the dirt with something on my back purring. The lowest rumble I've ever heard/felt. Role over and am face to face with a cougar. It let me up and it is still there purring like crazy. I scratched it behind the ears like a cat.

        The farmer drives up and looks with a bit of surprise. He then tells me the cougar was a pet when it was young, but broke its leg when it slid off the kitchen table. It was declawed, but (amazingly) ended up getting to big for an indoor pet even with the stunted growth. They let it go on the property. The farmer tells me usually it hides from strangers, but one of its favorite games was pounce. He shows me. Turns his back on the cat, and watched that thing go into hunt mode. Took a bunch of pictures with the cat, loaded up my samples, and about five minutes down the road just stopped the car because I was shaking so bad. Nothing like almost finding yourself lower on the food chain. The stunned silence was something else when I called in and gave a status update on how things went. Well, I got jumped by a cougar today...
        • by Eightyford (893696) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @11:38AM (#13348473) Homepage
          Well, I got jumped by a cougar today...

          That actually happened to me a few weeks ago. It was my friends bachelor party, and I was just standing there with a Labatt's in my hand... and all of a sudden... BAM!

          She made me breakfast in the morning.
        • Ooh, cougars. When our family visited Turpentine Creek [tigers.tc], a tiger and big cat sanctuary near Eureka Springs, *all* the big cats looked at my 8-year-old son like a housecat looks at a catnip mouse. But the cougars... they looked at him like a barn cat looks at a *real* mouse. No playful chasing along the fence for them -- they crouch, slink, and prepare to pounce. He caused one minor fight among the cougars, when one cougar in a stealthy slink ran into another cougar, who was also considering making a meal
      • Where I'm from, several people have lost pets to those things. While it's true that pumas (we call them mountian lions here) are generally afraid of humans, the ones that live close to populated areas tend to get too used to humans and lose there natural fear of humans. This is when they can become dangerous. Several people in Colorado have been attacked by them over the years.

        • Re:Help me out here (Score:5, Interesting)

          by maxpublic (450413) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @01:19PM (#13349497) Homepage
          In Oregon there are quite a few mountain lions whose ranges extend into urban areas, but attacks are extremely rare. People don't even know when they're around, except perhaps when a pet goes missing. This is especially true since our forests extend right into our cities and towns; even Portland is this way (and is large enough to have its own internal forests). A cougar can be hiding in a clump of bushes along your property line as you're walking from the house to your car in the morning and you'll never know it's there.

          About a month ago I encountered a cougar that was crouched along the edge of a nearby forest (about forty feet from the nearest building). I see all sorts of other animals in that area, but the cougar was a real surprise; I was in the area, about twenty-five feet from the cougar, for about five minutes before I noticed that the forest line didn't look quite right. Stared at it for a bit and finally made out the head and ears. It was just watching me, apparently waiting for me to leave so it could continue on it's merry way. It noticed that I had seen it and froze with a wide-eyed "oh shit!" look and since I didn't want him to panic I backed out of the area and left. I wasn't concerned since mountain lion attacks are extremely rare, and when they do happen it's almost always when the animal has the element of surprise, which this one clearly didn't.

          Haven't seen him since, but that doesn't mean he isn't around. There've been fewer deer coming by so I think he's still in the general area. In any event, it's common for cougars to be near and for people to walk right by them without noticing them because they're so good at remaining hidden. Nothing to be alarmed about.

          Max
    • Re:Help me out here (Score:3, Interesting)

      by perrin (891)
      "persistantly encroaching civilization"

      Well, here in Europe, forests are growing back and reclaiming abandoned farmland that it is no longer profitable to keep in use. People are moving into the cities, and population growth rates are negative in many countries. The changes are vast, and wolves and other larger animals that were made extinct in western Europe long ago have moved back in.

      Environmentalists are not all amused, however. A lot of adapted wildlife will go bye bye along with the farmland, as new-
  • by Alranor (472986) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:25AM (#13346763)
    parks could be set up as breeding sanctuaries

    vs

    It's coming right for us! Quick Ned, shoot it
  • Really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SLASHAttitude (569660) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:26AM (#13346771) Homepage
    Do they not think that they would affect what is currently inhabiting those parks? I see that this can be a real problem. Not to mention the law suits that might come if some kids tries to feed a lion and winds up being a meal.
  • Enough! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by garcia (6573) *
    Reintroducing the modern relatives of the Late Pleistocene losers to North America could spark fresh interest in conservation, contribute to biodiversity and begin to put right some of the wrongs caused by human activities.

    Those animals are dwindling in numbers for a reason and should remain as such. Believe it or not that's the nature of the Earth. Superior animals control populations of other animals and sometimes entire populations die creating chain reactions.

    I am thrilled that we have advanced enough
  • What?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Shky (703024) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [yraeloykhs]> on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:27AM (#13346781) Homepage Journal
    Has nobody seen Jurassic Park?!
  • Dumb idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    More proof that being "educated" means squat.

    Let us not forget all of the other misguided attempts at relocation. (Rabbits and cane toads in oz, anyone?)

    Lets not forget how far south the North American winter pushes - sure, I can totally see a lion in Nebraska... with 50mph north winds and horizontally falling snow.
  • A Little Late (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MooseByte (751829) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:27AM (#13346785)

    So 13,000 years after relatives of these megafauna disappeared from North America, they want to import their cousins?

    Seems the continent has had 13,000 years for it's ecosystems to adapt to the current state of things, why screw it up with sudden introduction of species that weren't actually here in the first place? And if so why stop there? I'm sure Velociraptors wandered Texas long ago.

    Now if they wanted to bring back to vast herds of buffalo, sure.

    • Re:A Little Late (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @09:06AM (#13347124)

      Seems the continent has had 13,000 years for it's ecosystems to adapt to the current state of things, why screw it up with sudden introduction of species that weren't actually here in the first place?

      Maybe because in most places the ecosystem has not adapted very well at all. For the last several hundred years pretty much every large predator in North America has been brought to the brink of extinction except one, humans. Sure there are some mountain lions here or there, and a few wolves (that are mostly wolf coyote hybrids now), but they are all endangered species. The life of the typical wild herd animal, like deer, usually ends with being killed by a human or by dying slowly of disease or starvation. I can't tell you how many game animals I've disposed of because half their face was rotted away by some disease and there are no predators left to kill the sick ones.

      With decreasing space for animals to live, the overcrowding and resultant disease and starvation is getting much worse. Now this proposal to introduce large foreign species may or may not help the situation. What really needs to happen is a reduction in human overpopulation, but I don't see that happening anytime soon either.

      • Re:A Little Late (Score:5, Insightful)

        by zippthorne (748122) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @09:21AM (#13347285) Journal
        You said it yourself, humans haven't just eliminated the predators, we've supplanted them. The human population is not the problem. The human unwillingness to fulful the role of the missing predators is. We should be eating the animals that aren't being eaten by packs of wolves anymore. Your anecdote about the diseased deer just proves the point: we need more predators like you to keep the deer population in check.
        • The human unwillingness to fulful the role of the missing predators is.

          This is partially true, but it is coupled with the fact that we are removing more and more habitat suitable for them and they are being forced to live in the burbs. One of the reasons humans are unwilling to fulfill that role is because it is illegal (and dangerous to other humans) to hunt in the areas where many of these animals live. City parks are holding special goose hunting days in an effort to stem part of the problem. People

        • Re:A Little Late (Score:4, Insightful)

          by demachina (71715) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @11:37AM (#13348461)
          "We should be eating the animals that aren't being eaten by packs of wolves anymore." ... excepting people are squeamish about eating diseased animals. Wasting disease, which is running rampant in Elk herds in the rockies is a very close cousin to mad cow disease. Though its not currently thought to be transmitable to humans, I doubt you want to go out of your way to eat Elk infected with it.

          But, these scientists really don't have a clue what kind of buzz saw they would face trying to introduce foreign predators in to the U.S. Farmers and ranchers who have substantial political clout, especially with the current administration, would fight it to the death unless its in heavily fenced parks more like zoos. They need to look no further than the massive resistance there has been to protecting and reintroducing the grizzly and wolves.

          I saw on the news a week or so ago states around Yellowstone are probably going to resume hunting the formerly endangered grizzly bear if they are foolish enough to wander outside the bounds of the park. Ranchers have zero tolerance for predators, and they control most of the land not in parks.

          One reason elephants are endangered is they don't mesh well with farmers or any kind of civilization because its nearly impossible to stop them from demolishing farms, unless you put them in small areas with major, expensive, fencing.
    • The last "floating it out there" idea about bison was to declare North and South Dakota a "Buffalo commons" and set 'em loose there, wasn't it? That's been bounced around for at least ten years, mostly as a pop-media crack about the Dakotas.

      I agree with you, this makes little sense. Importing cheetahs isn't going to necessarily result in their preying on pronghorn -- whose natural predators we don't really understand. (They're an evolutionary backwater: pronghorn are way fast, can run forever unlike cheet

  • If only... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Wicked187 (529065)
    we had facilities where we could breed and look over endangered species here in North America.
  • Hmm. 198 billion babies in a few weeks. We'll need an army of super-virile men scoring 'round the clock! I'll do my part. Kif, clear my schedule.
  • The only concern that I would have with this is in the future, will the fences be removed? I could only immagine some poor farmer in nebraska being stalked and eaten by a tiger.

    Still, it would be cool to go RVing to a park in this country and see live elephants. Maby even make a "fan-documentary" of roaming herds of elephants.

  • Old news, really (Score:3, Informative)

    by Creosote (33182) * on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:28AM (#13346799) Homepage
    Paul Martin [usgs.gov] of the University of Arizona, whose name has been synonymous with Pleistocene megafauna for decades (he first advanced the "Pleistocene overkill" theory of their extinction), was in the news several years ago for suggesting something like this. For example, see this talk [amnh.org] at the American Museum of Natural History from 1998.

    I'd Google for more references, but I have a plane to catch...

  • Climate (Score:3, Informative)

    by Webs 101 (798265) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:29AM (#13346806) Homepage
    Ignoring the pros and cons of conservation and the potential animal-human interactions, lions may not be suited to the cold North American winters that dominate on the plains.

    Elephants may be able to handle it through sheer size, but lions have no adaptations for cold. Nor do cheetahs.

    Zoos and free-animal parks provide shelter that wild animals wouldn't have.

  • by interactive_civilian (205158) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .uromam.> on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:29AM (#13346815) Homepage Journal
    but on one condition: No animals are allowed to be killed with anything except bare hands, even if they harm humans.

    Then we can just let Darwin take care of the rest.

    Because, you know, some people out there actually think this might be a good idea.

  • If they all died out 13000 years ago it can't exactly be blamed on modern man. Even men of 13000 years ago wouldn't have been likely to systematically kill several species. There weren't that many people and they were still roaming around in small groups.

    I like elephants, lions, ligers, and tions as much as the next guy. Nonetheless, I'd rather have a nuclear plant near me then a wild animal preserve. I'd definately be a lot safer! I've heard some of those creatures can even do magic.
  • by Webs 101 (798265) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:31AM (#13346833) Homepage
    Yahoo has the reuters wire story; CNNN has AP's:

    http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/08/17/wild.am erica.ap/index.html [cnn.com]

    The AP story ends with this memorable quote:

    Donlan concedes that lions would be a tough sell to Americans.

    "Lions eat people," he said. "There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators."

    • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy.tpno-co@org> on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:40AM (#13346898) Homepage
      "Lions eat people," he said. "There has to be a pretty serious attitude shift on how you view predators."

      That, my friend, is what I call a selling point.

      I'm picturing a service, we'll call it Rent-A-Lion, where in you hire the services of a lion for the afternoon. Now, say you have a boss who's a prick or you just know an asshole who needs a good eatin', you just park this lion in their house and wait.

      Brilliant I tell you. As an added bonus, there's always the possibility that the lion would eat the evidence.
    • I don't think the problem is how people view predators, per se, but how predators view people.
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:31AM (#13346834)
    Before adding to the North American wildlife, they might want to read Best in the Garden [beastinthegarden.com]. Sure, they might try to contain these creatures in parks, but they will escape and learn to live with (or on) humans.
  • by caffiend666 (598633) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:32AM (#13346838) Homepage

    We have enough problems keeping the native species alive. Yes, it's important to save these animals, but should we be putting more effort into saving the animals than we put into bringing animals here from half a world away? I'd be more interested in seeing them hunting free/tamper free zones for native animals.

    • Yes, it's important to save these animals, but should we be putting more effort into saving the animals than we put into bringing animals here from half a world away? I'd be more interested in seeing them hunting free/tamper free zones for native animals.

      Eagles are too high in the area 99% of the time to attract tourists.

      Bison look like hairy cows with dreadlocks. They are slow moving, typically boring, and will eat hay out of your hand if you stick it through the fence. Not much fun for tourists.

      Wolves a
  • Extinction (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jaeger (2722) * on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:37AM (#13346879) Homepage

    So what you're telling me is that major extinctions happen without human intervention? Who knew? (Just don't tell the endangered species people.)

  • by ACK!! (10229) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:42AM (#13346929) Journal
    Ok, there are studies that show the impact of introduced wolf packs are having a positive impact on some areas in Canada.

    On the other hand, it seems like every time we introduce a non-native bit of flora and fauna to the North American landscape we end up with those jumping fish in the Mississippi river or kudzu all over everything in the South or ..... (you get the picture)

    Outside of a very restricted park environment I can see a serious potential for tragedy here.

  • by Tx (96709) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @08:43AM (#13346940) Journal
    In Scotland, there's a scheme in the offing to reintroduce bison, wild board and wolves to a reserve. ISTR bears may have been mentioned as well. The reserve will be protected by a 50 foot fence, but ramblers will be allowed free access! I hope they put CCTV cameras up so we can watch ramblers vs wolves in realtime :).
    • Real wolves, that is, not funny wolves that eat people and howl at the full moon. Looks like you've been reading too many books. Ramblers will be lucky even to catch sight of a real wolf. They are shy, nocturnal creatures.

      Good heavens, educated people a hundred years ago knew wolves were no threat to people. And Bergen Evans, writing in the middle of the last century, could not find a single authenticated case of a wolf attacking a human being in the wild.

      However, I hope to Hell they don't introduce those w

  • Great idea! (Score:4, Funny)

    by smartin (942) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @09:05AM (#13347108)
    Especially considering how well they are managing the nature wildlife such as deer in my area (NJ). I can hardly wait until I have hordes of Elephants eating my garden.
  • by WheelDweller (108946) <.WheelDweller. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday August 18, 2005 @09:33AM (#13347393)

    Is this the same crew who was pushing for reanimation of that wooly mammoth a while back?

    If these animals died out 13,000 years ago, doesn't the secular world view this as a mistake on the part of natural selection? Are we really going to second-guess that?

    'Cause if we are, I'm gonna lobby for bigger guns and trample-insurance.

    Ya know, there needs to be just one "idiot" packaged with all these overeducated intellectuals to put the brakes on now and then. Remember GM corn- how the scientists thought 200 yards was far enough away from natural corn to be safe....while forgetting that the typical native honeybee has a cruising range of over five miles?

    Ya never see these people trying to reanimate the sabre-tooth tiger....wouldn't that be earnest, thoughtful re-instatement of missing species? Hey! Let's make a dragon!....

    • by Shotgun (30919) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @10:00AM (#13347652)
      Is this the same crew who was pushing for reanimation of that wooly mammoth a while back?

      If these animals died out 13,000 years ago, doesn't the secular world view this as a mistake on the part of natural selection? Are we really going to second-guess that?


      You see, the thing you forget is that the mammoth was killed off by overhunting from pre-historic men. Since men aren't natural, expecially the prehistoric type, we have to undo anything they've done. The world has to exist as if men were never here, because men are evil and vile.

      Death to the human race (except for me, of course) so that the world can be a natural place!!
  • by jkujawa (56195) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @10:05AM (#13347696) Homepage
    "Just like rabbits in Australia -- but bigger! And carnivorous!"
  • by CrazyTalk (662055) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @02:15PM (#13350023)
    Once again we turn to the wisdom of "The Simpsons":

    Skinner: Well, I was wrong. The lizards are a godsend.
    Lisa: But isn't that a bit short-sighted? What happens when we're overrun by lizards?
    Skinner: No problem. We simply unleash wave after wave of Chinese needle snakes. They'll wipe out the lizards.
    Lisa: But aren't the snakes even worse?
    Skinner: Yes, but we're prepared for that. We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat.
    Lisa: But then we're stuck with gorillas!
    Skinner: No, that's the beautiful part. When wintertime rolls around, the gorillas simply freeze to death.

  • by Vellmont (569020) on Thursday August 18, 2005 @07:02PM (#13352029) Homepage
    All I ever seen mentioned is "the scientists". Who are these people, what training do they have? Do they have some agenda at hand beyond "conservation" (whatever that means these days). Do they have any legitimatacy, or are they just hacks?

    Too many times the word "scientist" is banterred about to try to bring legitimacy to some wild claim. I'm no biologist, ecologist, etc, but I do know that just about every time we've intentionally or accidentally introduced species that aren't native to an area it's been a disaster. If you want examples, look no further than jack rabbits in Australia, zebra mussles in the great lakes, invasive algae in the mediteranean, and countless other examples.

    About the only thing we have introduced to an area that hasn't been a disaster are the crops we farm. I suspect the only reason is that human influenced crops aren't hardy enough to survive on their own without us looking after them very carefully. Wild corn, or wild chickens don't seem to be taking over anywhere for instance.

    Could the so-called scientists present some credentials please? This sounds more like media garbage than actual science.

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