28 April 2010


Last night I happened to catch a PSA (public service announcement) that rivited me. Harrison Ford has been one of several active spokespersons for AOPA's campaign to raise public awareness of the diverse services rendered by general aviation (GA) aircraft -- the outreach program is called GA Serves America. As a wannabe pilot, I'm pleased that Ford, who owns a number of small aircraft and is licensed to fly both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, stepped up to further the cause.

Ford's appearance last night was on behalf of another public awareness outreach which is even dearer to my heart -- he spoke on behalf of CAWT, the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking. His presentation was direct, forceful and vivid. The illegal international trade in wildlife skins, trophy heads, and other body parts for arcane medicinal purposes, has driven too many endangered species to the brink of extinction. Conservation groups have limited resources for combatting this hideous practice, and governments too often turn a blind eye ... until it is too late.

As with illegal drugs, the key lies with the consumer. If there were not a lucrative market for cocaine (or ivory, or exotic furs), poachers would find other ways to make a living. And as with illegal drugs, the profit from illicit sales is so substantial that the taking of wildlife has become a violent business -- gangs of thugs armed with heavy automatic weapons often outgun those few government wildlife rangers who try to enforce the law. Already too many species only survive in zoos, not in their native habitat.

My own visceral preferred solution would be summary execution of poachers, middlemen and purchasers alike, without benefit of trial. But I realize that is overreacting. Much more effective in the long run is to hit them in the pocketbook, removing the profit from this or any other activity which threatens the planet.

Bottom line, inform yourself. Get involved. Speak out. Do not allow someone you know to buy an animal product from the other side of the globe, if that animal is in any way threatened or endangered (whether through dropping population or through loss of habitat). For every one of nature's perfect creatures that we destroy, the world becomes a poorer place for ourselves, and for our grandchildren -- not to mention for wildlife, which have an inherent right to live without human interference. I for one don't ever want to have to answer my grandson's question, "Grandpa, what's a tiger? What's a snow leopard? What's a humpback whale?" The answer would break my heart.

Please check out the CAWT website for more information.

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