Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Call to restock North America’s large mammals

Well, since wolves are reclaiming parts of Europe, why not?

Call to restock North America’s large mammals

Elephants, lions, cheetahs and camels could one day roam the western US under a proposal to recreate North American landscapes as they existed more than 13,000 years ago, when humans first encountered them. The plan, proposed in a commentary in Nature and co-authored by 13 ecologists and conservation biologists, would help enrich a North American ecosystem that was left almost devoid of large mammals at the end of the Pleistocene period. It would also help preserve wildlife that faces the threat of extinction in Africa and Asia. Between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago, 97 of 150 genera of large mammals disappeared from around the world. Although a warming climate played its part, the consensus is that over-hunting by humans probably had a significant role. In North America, by about 13,000 years ago, humans were leaving evidence of big-game hunting using sophisticated stone tools. This hunting probably helped to drive many animals to extinction, including North American mammoths and mastodons, lions, cheetahs, camelops (a relative of the modern camel), horses and asses. The best place to create this “Pleistocene Park” would be in the North American Great Plains, where the human population is relatively low and the grazing animals would have a ready supply of food.


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