Bart Gets an Elephant

I meant to post this last Thursday but a number of things distracted me. Anyway, the lunchtime conversation that day concerned the latest issue of Nature, which contains a commentary piece proposing that endangered African megafauna (e.g. cheetah, elephants, lions) be “restored” to the American Great Plains (where similar species lived before the arrival of humans). (Slate posted a version of this piece the same day, for those of you without access to Nature.)
This idea is very appealing to the 10-year-old boy in me, but otherwise it sounds like a recipe for disaster. Transplanting species across continents is the sort of thing prone to unintended consequences. And the human inhabitants may not be too excited about this; there’s already been one death-by-tiger in the midwestern U.S. without shipping them en masse.
The authors have to some degree already considered this, as they included a plot illustrating “potential economic/cultural value” vs. “potential economic/cultural conflict” by species. About this I only wish to say that someday I hope to publish a paper in which my data points are represented by little animal-cracker-like pictures of lions and elephants.

10 thoughts on “Bart Gets an Elephant

  1. shellock

    Well at Squam this weekend we saw mountian lions. I think I am glad they do not live in the woods next to my house. But a amusing idea all the same. Though why not clone wooly mamathes and release them too.

  2. ohwilleke

    Well, here in Colorado we already have lion, tigers (actually lynx), and bears, as well as wolves and foxes and elk, at large.
    Having them roam around the great plains isn’t itself so bad. The problem is that they need to not be close neighbors of humans. But, buy out the local residents with a power of eminent domain, and plop gazellas, zebra, lions, elephants and the like in some lonely several townships of economically marginal farmland surrounded by a deer height electric fence near the Arkansas River in Colorado, and I think that they might do just fine (and would give us a place to put all those wild horses we’ve been auctioning off).

  3. Kyle

    …someday I hope to publish a paper in which my data points are represented by little animal-cracker-like pictures of lions and elephants.
    Haha! To this I respond:
    What’s stopping you??

  4. Wren

    My coauthors tend to reject things like ant-shaped icons. (That paper has been accepted. 9 years late, I finally catch up with all my friends and publish something.) No sense of humor.

  5. Dad

    Upon my first glance at the graph prior to reading the text of the post, I thought the subject matter was going to be political parties. What you in fact posted is much more interesting.

  6. Mason

    I have monkeys in one of my publications. (I use some scanned-in photos of stuffed monkeys—though one is technically a gorilla. I wanted to use Donkey Kong originally, but we had to use non-copyrighted stuff for the official press venues—then I wasted more than an hour of my life making a very gratuitous plot of monkeys on a network with some graphical touch-ups that I shouldn’t have wasted my time exploring. Mmmm… graphical toys.) I totally think that a big part of the reason we got press is that I insisted we use monkey as a synonym for random walker whenever we were dealing with non-technical venues. :) Everybody loves monkeys.
    I need to do work. If all goes well, maybe this paper will be done Thursday, and I need to get this draft to my collaborators soon for that to happen. Avoiding work when I most need to do it such a bad habit…

  7. Josh

    I think that having wild animals in the Great Plains wouldn’t do much good in convincing them to change sides in the great Gun Control debate.
    However, the theory that you need a gun, or weapon of any kind, was disproven recently in an article that I wish I could find online again of a 76-year-old man in a southern African country who was attacked by, I believe, a panther. The man, rather than fleeing, or attempting to fight off the panther with his machete, dropped his huge sword and thrust his hand down the panther’s throat, ripping its tongue out. The panther then bled to death, and the man survived with minimal injuries.
    So I guess the African wildlife could also be used to toughen up the video-game generation a bit. That man deserves a ytmnd website of his story posted to the Orgazmo theme “Now you’re a man”.

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