Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Raptor Conservation

Indiana is currently experiencing a growing trend in shootings of raptors. This is a serious federal offense, carrying huge fines, but nonetheless my friends at Indiana Raptor Center are admitting more and more birds of prey suffering from gunshot wounds. They're usually fatal. Updates on the Facebook group for the center invariably gain many hopeful comments, only to be dashed with news that euthanization was necessary.

I'm hard at work on a poster which will be part of a multi-organizational public push to stop this awful trend. There's one telling bit of copy that haunts me as I work. I can't get it out of my head:
"70% of all raptors die withing the first year of their life. Rehabilitation centers report collisions, shootings, electrocution, and pesticide exposure as common causes for admissions."
Today on Twitter, I had a brief conversation with Sharon Wegner-Larson about conservation efforts, and the cynicism of appealing to peoples' self-interest in these matters. It is cold and calculating, but it's also necessary. In fact, it's been a strong through-line in much of my work over the last few months. This poster, inspired by a similar one used a few years ago in the State of Wisconsin, has that strategy in mind, making the point that while raptors may claim a few chickens, they more than pay their way by keeping potentially costly rodent populations down. If you can't hit the heart, aim for the wallet. It's often a larger target.


Illustration of Microraptor and Sinornithosaurus by Emily Willoughby, used with her permission. Click to big it up.

So, when I look at evocative pieces of paleontography like the above Liaoning scene by Emily Willoughby [blog], I have to wonder: even if the asteroid hadn't done the trick, who's to say that previous generations wouldn't have wiped out surviving non-avian dinosaurs by the time our current generations arrived on the planet? Our endless appetite for fictional dinosaur carnage doesn't speak well of their chances, certainly. Maybe it's for the best that so many are gone: it allows us to keep them alive in idealized worlds of our own choosing, safe from our baser instincts. Perhaps these fantasies of lost worlds can help us appreciate our own, and protect the avian dinosaurs with whom we still share the planet.

3 comments:

  1. Poignantly put in your last paragraph, David.

    70% is a staggering figure.

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    Replies
    1. Very depressing that people are increasingly taking aim at these lovely predators. I agree that we sometimes fetishize the past at the expense of admiring the present. Hopefully in the future our view of birds of prey will not be like the synthetic owl in Blade Runner.

      Duane
      http://antediluviansalad.blogspot.com/

      Delete
  2. "I'm hard at work on a poster which will be part of a multi-organizational public push to stop this awful trend."

    Will you show it to us here when it's done?

    "70% of all raptors die withing the first year of their life. Rehabilitation centers report collisions, shootings, electrocution, and pesticide exposure as common causes for admissions."

    As depressing as that is, hasn't that been the case for a while or am I mistaken?

    BTW, while I do like Emily's art, I would think that 1 of the pieces in the following links would be a better fit for this blog post (especially the 2nd 1).

    http://luisvrey.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/raptorial-family-life/

    http://luisvrey.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/now-and-then/

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