“Rewilding” the USA with lions & elephants

An article about what knocked off the mammoths–not man as previously thought, but climate change–got even more interesting when it told about a current proposal that environmentalists are making:  “Rewild” America by bringing back into the countryside elephants, camels, lions, and other ancestors of animals that have gone extinct.

From What killed the great beasts of North America? A new study points to environmental causes. – The Washington Post:

Recently, a number of conservationists have begun advocating the “rewilding” of North America by reintroducing species such as elephants — which are closely related to extinct animals including mastodons and mammoths — and African lions, which are related to the extinct American lion.

This idea has received increasing attention in both the scientific literature and the popular media.

For example, rewilding proponents advocate introducing elephants and Bactrian camels — which are now close to extinction in the Gobi Desert — onto the continent, with the idea that they would eat woody plants and weeds that threaten grasslands in the western United States and that a new habitat would help protect them from extinction. But some researchers have argued that these proposals are based on faulty ecological logic and could end up hurting ecosystems rather than helping them as well as threatening existing species.

And Lyman says that the strategy is based in large part on the ethical argument that because humans killed off relatives of these animals, they bear responsibility for now saving them and restoring their habitats. “The overkill hypothesis is a very weak foundation for rewilding,” he says.

Here is a link to a scientific proposal, in Nature, no less.


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