Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wildlife in Peril

From UPI. I'll comment throughout.
Mongolian Wildlife Face Extinction Crisis
There's an attention getter. But how accurate is it? I think my headline is better. Might not get as many views, though :)
ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- Wildlife Conservation Society scientists say they are deeply concerned about an alarming decrease in general wildlife populations in Mongolia.

The New York-based organization blames overhunting and excessive trade in skins and other animal products for the problem, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
This stands to reason. Hunting is one of the things that draws folks to visit Mongolia. That hunters are bagging animals faster than they can replentish themselves comes, alas, as no surprise.
A WCS study of Mongolia's wildlife says by some estimates, the populations of endangered species -- marmots, argali sheep, antelope, red deer, bears, Asiatic wild asses -- have plummeted by 50 percent to 90 percent.
What do other folks say the numbers are? Just wondering. It'd be nice to have some opposing views here. In the event that everyone agrees, it'd be nice to be told that, too.
Two exceptions are an apparent increase in the number of wolves and a gradual increase in the number of endangered Przewalski wild horses.

Again, though, more views on the numbers would be nice. Regardless, this stands to reason. When I was there last (January), wolves were wreaking havoc on nomads everywhere (or at least in the part of the country I was in). Wolves were once known to be a tad less populous, but they're becoming alarmingly common. Driving from UB to Erdenet one evening, I saw three wolves along the side of the road. When I asked the driver if there were wolves in those parts, he said that there were more wolves than anyone wanted, by far. Stories of missing children and all that. Granted, to a herder or a parent, one wolf is one wolf too many. Later that month, I was visiting relatives and they were constantly building fires in the mountains near their gers to keep the wolves away from the sheep and goats. The only dead wolf I saw was strapped to the hood of an SUV--blood still fresh (though frozen) from the recent kill outside of town.

"The country is facing a quite extraordinary and unnoticed extinction crisis, or at least the threat of one," Peter Zahler, assistant director for Asia at the New York-headquartered Wildlife Conservation Society, told the newspaper.

Well, a crisis and a threatened crisis are very different. Given the hands-in-the-air, the-end-is-coming nature of many eco groups, I'm not sure what to make of this kinds of claims. (But if I didn't think over-hunting were a problem at all, well then I wouldn't be posting this.)

The WCS said the nation's independence from the Soviet Union in 1990 "was the undoing of Mongolia's century-long effort to control wildlife trade."

You know, the trains ran on time in Italy until Mussolini got hanged from that bridge. But that's not enough to make Italians get all misty-eyed about the early 1940s. I mean, come on. And you wonder why I take many eco groups claims (and the media that promulgates them) with a grain of salt.

The WCS says nearly all of Mongolia's annual $100 million in wildlife trade is illegal.

I have no way of knowing if this last claim is true or not, the Mongolian hunting statues not being at my fintertips. But the rule of law being what it is in the far-flung parts of Mongolian wilderness, I wouldn't be surprised if the report is about right.

Anyway, over-hunting in Mongolia is a problem that should be addressed sooner rather than later. America nearly out-hunted its beavers, muskrat, bison, etc. I think that American wolves (the Gray Wolf?) were hunted clean out of existence (??) because they were thought to be so plentiful. Similar problems have been repeated the world over. So there's a lesson to be learned by up-and-coming countries not to make the same mistakes.

One thing getting in the way is the sense that Mongolians have of the spaciousness and inexhaustibility of their land. It's seemed eternally large for millennia now, and the thought that people can exhaust the land, the trees, the animals, seems absurd to many Mongolians. I was once talking with someone who said of logging ventures in Siberia. She, a Mongol, said, "Siberia will never run out of wood. I've been on the train from UB to Moscow. It's trees the whole way." Well, eventually even a great quantity of natural resources can be exhausted. So, it's an uphill battle for the hearts and minds of the locals. Anyway, here's to the hope that Mongolia works on a sensible and enforced hunting code.

UPDATE: Here's the story from which the UPI story was evidently edited. This New York Times piece also has a very informative (and depressing) graphic. This fuller story is worth the visit should you be interested.


Anonymous yan said...

I think it's true, esp. for marmots. In fact, everything that might bring money is being hunted or harvested today. I've heard that even wildberries are getting less and less easy to harvest (i.e. there are fewer of them now than 15 years ago). Of course, under socialism there was no economic incentive to hunt for marmot, or to pick berries, so the populations were stable.

AFAIK, the law on marmot hunting was changed some time ago. The UBPost article is here. About time, if you ask me.

12/07/2005 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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3/21/2008 10:07 PM  
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10/02/2008 11:12 PM  
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