...many biologists who study whales and dolphins ...urge that negotiators redouble efforts to abolish commercial whaling and dolphin hunting entirely. As these scientists see it, the evidence is high and mounting that the cetacean order includes species second only to humans in mental, social and behavioral complexity, and that maybe we shouldn’t talk about what we’re harvesting or harpooning, but whom.
“At the very least, you could put it in line with hunting chimps,” said Hal Whitehead, who studies sperm whales at Dalhousie University in Halifax. “When you compare relative brain size, or levels of self-awareness, sociality, the importance of culture, cetaceans come out on most of these measures in the gap between chimps and humans. They fit the philosophical definition of personhood.”
How much more personable can you get than to wave the flag for tribe or team? Among sperm and killer whales, Dr. Whitehead said, “there’s a feeling of what one might call ethnicity or cultural identity, of saying, ‘This is my clan, and it’s different from the others.’ ” One way whales express their ethnicity is through dialect. Every clan has its signature call, and in regions of the ocean where two clans overlap, the differences between calls become exaggerated. “It’s like if you’re Irish and you run across someone who is Scottish or Welsh,” said Dr. Whitehead. “You’ll speak with an even stronger Irish accent to make it really clear whose group you belong to.”
This story is troubling, specifically, in terms of the plight of the Florida panther and, more generally, with regard to suburban sprawl.
I recently read a book titled Hunger for the Wild: America's Obsession With the Untamed West, that discussed westward expansion throughout US history, through present day. One of my favorite passages talks about how modern Americans develop new subdivisions and name them, missing the irony, after the very species they displaced to do so. How many foxes do you see roaming your nearby land tract, name Fox Run?
What is it about people that makes them move out to "be closer to nature" and then need a Walmart on the corner?
According to Defenders of Wildlife, 2009 was a very bad year for the Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi. Nearly 20 percent of the Florida panther population was killed by vehicles last year. Years ago, these magnificent cats roamed free in eight states. Today, less than 100 of the endangered panthers are believed to exist in the wild.
This is a wonderful short talk from TED by Kartick Satyanran, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, who was largely responsible for bring the dancing bears phenomenon to an end in India last year. What really worked to put an end to this terribly cruel practice was not only outlawing it - that had been done already - but giving the people an alternative means of financial support.