National Geographic : 1976 Jan
THE DEBATE over the world's endangered species rages more loudly, but hardly more fruitfully, with each passing year. Conserva tionists still too often rely on emotional statements of their cause, attributing only ignorance and greed to those who harvest wildlife. Industry spokesmen too often find belligerence their best defense, and regard all conservationists as featherheaded idealists. Today international waters are frothing with con troversy over the survival of whales; yet the furor rages perhaps with more passion than knowledge, simply because we are unable to collect and main tain indisputable census figures. Has man the wisdom to "manage" another spe cies? The cynic will snort, and point to skies once filled by great flocks of passenger pigeons. Somehow our tinkering has left us with noisome hordes of starlings in their place. In a few human generations great herds of bison, the timber wolf, the grizzly bear, the bighorn sheep, and other species have been reduced to remnant populations. Consider now the sleek, silver-hued harp seal of the North Atlantic. The winter pack ice has formed; soon it will be the whelping time of these lovely and valuable animals. Only days after the pups are born, men will move in to club them to death for their white pelts. So it has been for two centuries or more. A candid account of the annual seal hunt appeared in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC nearly 47 years ago, in July 1929, as veteran arctic explorer Robert A. Bart lett described how thousands of men set out in doz ens of ships-at considerable hazard and for meager pay. Captain Bartlett, a sealer himself, noted that recent seasons' yields had declined to some 200,000 pelts, "in contrast with earlier years when the catch ran to 700,000." Within the past decade public outcry over the slaughter has prompted the reduction of quotas to 150,000 animals a year. Setting the proper quota, however, is vital for both the species and a continu ing sealing industry. In this issue Canadian biologist David Lavigne presents findings based on a new technique, the recording and counting of harp seal pups by ultraviolet aerial photography. His conclusions are disturbing, as you will read in the article beginning on page 129. But here at last some light accompanies the heat of controversy. We hope it will help wildlife officials, conservationists, and sealers to find common ground on which to make the right decision on the harp seal. Without such enlightened discourse among men, surely many species will suffer-most of all, in the end, Homo sapiens himself. ,Z _Y ^ SAT NAL THE NATIONALGEOGRAPHICMAGAZINEVOL. 149, NO. I COPYRIGHT© 1975 NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY WASHINGTON,D. C. INTERNATIONALCOPYRIGHTSECURED January 1976 In Search of Moses 2 Where and how did a humble servant of God lead the Israeliteson one of history's most momentous journeys? Harvey Arden and Nathan Benn make a pilgrimage from the Nile to the PromisedLand. The Chambered Nautilus 38 Undersea photographerDouglas Faulkner captures in extraordinarycolor pictures the rare and mysterious Pacific mollusk whose mobile home is an architecturalmasterpiece. Stockholm 43 James Cerrutifinds that residents of Sweden's beautiful but expensive capital city enjoy complaining as they seek a special quality of life. Photographsby Albert Moldvay and JonathanBlair. Haiti: Beyond Mountains, More Mountains 70 Though overpopulation and poverty beset them, the people of that oldest West Indian republic remain remarkably lighthearted, report Carolyn Bennett Patterson and photographerThomas Nebbia. California's Parched Oasis 98 Distant Los Angeles controls the water of the mountain-walled Owens Valley, leaving it high, dry, and not so happy. Judith and Neil Morgan describe its plight; Jodi Cobb and Galen Rowell photograph it. Life or Death for the Harp Seal 129 Survival of a species divides alarmed conservationistsand hunters whose livelihood depends on harvest of these arctic creatures.Biologist David M. Lavigne reports their numbers seriously declining. Photographsby William R. Curtsinger. COVER: Snow-white pelt of a harp seal pup is both its glory and its lure to sealers.