The news of the demise of the last jaguar in the U.S. at the hands of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, reported in yesterday's post here, has reached the NYTimes. Their article summarizes most of the issues surrounding the jaguar's death, omitting only the follow-up news that a wildlife tech for the Arizona agency had planted female jaguar scat near the illegal snare, acting upon orders from her superiors.
I truly hope that this turns into a major scandal. We tend to either take for granted or exploit the planet and its inhabitants. Our hubris ignores the fact that all plant and animal species have an inherent right to live, just as we do. We belong to the planet, the planet does not belong to us. As the most intelligent species on earth, our responsibility is to assume the role of caretakers and stewards, leaving the natural world a richer, better place than the one we inherited. It is a monumental task. Are we up to the challenge? Our grandchildren and our grandchildren's grandchildren will judge us by our choices. Will they live in a garden, or a cesspool?
The poaching issue serves to highlight the larger issue of hunting, fishing, viewing the world as a resource for the taking. I advocate allowing nature to return to a state of dynamic balance, with prey and predator populations effectively controlling each other, as they did for millenia before humans began playing god. In a world with one-tenth the present human population, and an enlightened attitude toward our place in the web of life, subsistence hunting and fishing would not threaten entire prey populations. Trapping would be outlawed as the cruel and barbaric practice that it is. Most hunting would be done with cameras, and the rest with bow and arrow and expert fieldcraft, not high-powered rifles.