National Geographic : 1962 Nov
Man's Wildlife Heritage Faces Extinction The golden eagle of North America is being chased and killed by people in light airplanes who seem to think that it is smart to have its feathers and claws. The Arabian oryx owes its fate to the fact that some Arabs believe they must prove their manhood by killing an oryx so that they will inherit its legendary courage and virility. This may have made a little sense years ago, in the days when mankind was tyrannized by superstition, and the odds were a bit more even, but today, when up to 300 car-borne parties go out together to get-brave-quick by mowing down oryxes with tommy guns, the whole thing becomes sheer idiocy. THERE ARE, IN FACT, five reasons why wild animals are in danger all over the world: First, physical conditions are changing; hu man population is increasing, forcing the an imals out. Industry and science are polluting the air, the soil, and the water, unintention ally maybe, but none the less effectively, kill ing off vast numbers of animals and fish. Second, the means of controlling those creatures which are considered to be pests and nuisances are very much more powerful than ever before in history. They are, in fact, no longer means of control; they are methods of extermination. Even then things might not be so bad if they only affected the so-called pests; the trouble is that they set up a chain reaction in nature which takes in many inno cent creatures and in some cases man himself. Third, there are the killers for profit, the poachers, the get-rich-quick-at-any-cost mob. In Africa they are rapidly getting rid of the rhino because illegal dealers want the horn for sale in certain areas of the Orient where, for some incomprehensible reason, they seem to think that it acts as an aphrodisiac. I should have thought that the population statistics alone would have convinced anyone that those things were quite obviously unnec essary. Also, in Africa and elsewhere, these thoughtless exploiters are slaughtering vast numbers of elephants merely because they can get 50 cents a pound for their ivory from a middleman who sells it to a receiver for double that. He, in turn, gets two dollars a pound from an illegal dealer who charges the customer five dollars a pound-the official price. Six hundred elephants a year are being killed merely because the game laws cannot be enforced and people want chessmen or a new set of billiard balls. Fourth, the status killers like the eagle chasers and the young car-borne bravadoes of Arabia. In the Lebanon, The Times corre spondent reports, there is no longer a dawn chorus of birds because young men with shot guns and air guns prowl round the olive groves every morning and evening shooting everything that moves. You may well ask, "Why?" Merely so that they can swagger back to the cities with tiny sparrow-size birds dangling from their belts-a sort of Middle Eastern version of the moose on the mud guard. Supposedly symbols of achievement, in fact they are badges of barbarity. These status killers are at work all over the world. Who hasn't heard the man boast ing, in the office, or the club, about his latest The author, a global traveler, has wit nessed the alarming decline of many spe cies. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, serves as head of the World Wildlife Fund in Great Britain. Sportsman, sailor, and pilot, he has written Seabirds and Southern Waters, illustrated by his own photographs (Harper & Brothers, New York, 1962). In 1957 the National Geo graphic Society awarded him its Special Gold Medal for "bringing to millions a better understanding of our planet and its peoples."