Thursday, August 18, 2005

Pleistocene Park USA

During the Pleistocene era - between 1.8 million to about 10,000 years ago - North America was home to a myriad of mega fauna.

Once, American cheetah (Acinonyx trumani) prowled the plains hunting pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) - an antelope-like animal found throughout the deserts of the American Southwest - and Camelops, an extinct camelid, browsed on arid land.

Some Cornell University researchers would like to recreate the magic by re-introducing modern relatives of these creatures such as tigers, lions and elephants to the American plains.

Obviously, gaining public acceptance is going to be a huge issue, especially when you talk about reintroducing predators," said lead author Josh Donlan, of Cornell University. "There are going to have to be some major attitude shifts. That includes realising predation is a natural role, and that people are going to have to take precautions."

This is presented as an alternative conservation strategy for the twenty-first century, but could very well introduce new variables into the American ecosystem leading to unintended consequences, for example, other species falling ill from new bacteria. Mutations among the introduced species are also likely. Given the feral animal population encroaching on urban areas, or perhaps it's the other way around, this may be a complex proposition. Hunters may be elated, though.

Bring it on - Pleistocene Park USA awaits!

Full text of Nature Magazine report on the re-wilding of America (subscription/purchase only, unfortunately)

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