5 Ways We're Screwing With Wild Animals (For Their Own Good)
Animals are pretty good at dealing with the crap of Earth's least considerate roommate, Man. Well, except for the ones we wiped out somehow. These days we at least have the decency to feel bad about that kind of thing, so if a species falls on hard times, we'll come up with a conservation program or something. Make a token effort to look sad about their imminent obliteration. However, sometimes our best intentions seem indistinguishable from taunting the poor bastards in their darkest hour ...
(When the animals take their revenge on us, you'll need to be ready. So let The De-Textbook train you to fight the mimic octopus, nature's Predator-esque camouflage expert.)
Poisoning Quolls to Save Them
Meet the quoll, Australia's cutest marsupial (koalas lost the title right around the time we learned they all had chlamydia):
"Don't worry, baby; I'm clean."
Roughly the size of a small dog, these guys are cousins of the Tasmanian devil. Being carnivorous, quolls generally pick off smaller animals such as lizards, birds, and other unfortunates.
Now meet the cane toad, an abomination of a creature whose heart is filled with poison, both literal and figurative:
Appropriate for an animal that seems frozen in a look of permanent disdain.
The cane toad, being venomous, can usually kill the creature that consumes it. Granted, that's cool from a revenge perspective -- it's undoubtedly Inigo Montoya's spirit animal -- but it's ultimately not all that great of a deal for either animal involved, which is what makes it all the more incredible that scientists introduced the cane toad into the Australian quoll's environment on purpose.
Needless to say, it has unleashed something of a quoll holocaust.
If "Quoll Holocaust" isn't a heavy metal band by the end of this article, we have grossly misread our audience.
See, the ovulation-inducing cuteness of the quoll is matched only by its savagery; if quolls can fit their adorable wee jaws around something's spine, it's dead meat. Given that a cane toad's only defense strategy is to sit there stupidly and hope its poison saves the day, their meetings end in a nil-all draw with two very dead animals regretting their life decisions. But the quolls are losing the long game: Wherever the toads go, the quoll population crashes.
But never fear, quolls -- science is here to help! In an effort to teach quolls to make better dietary choices, researchers from the University of Sydney figured that if they could make cane toads taste like they're lethal, quolls might just avoid them. So they chopped up a few cane toads, laced them with cattle dewormer, and fed them to the quolls, who wolfed down their special dinner. Then the poison kicked in and the poor little guys "pawed at their faces" in adorable distress as the nausea took hold.
D'aww. Who wouldn't want to poison a face like that?
A dick move, to be sure.
But it's working, as some quolls decided that they would permanently give up cane toad for Lent. Which is nice, but we imagine others are still shuddering out in the woods somewhere, recalling the night that science gave them the worst shits this side of second-day Chick-Fil-A.
Sawing Off Rhino Horns to Prevent People from Sawing Off Rhino Horns
You may have heard that rhino horn is an aphrodisiac. That's not necessarily true, but people have used it to (pretend to) fix everything from "feverish colds" to demonic possession. Modern gullibility thinks it'll cure cancer and banish hangovers.
We just hit up IHOP, but maybe eating the ground remains of a sword-faced murder-monster might work, too.
Of course, a rhino horn is basically a fingernail that evolved into a murder weapon and has no more curative properties than the filthy bits under your own nails, but you can still get $100,000 a kilo for ground-up rhino horn in Vietnam. That's quite a bit more than the same amount of crystal meth, and with a supplier that's very nearly as unpredictable and almost as likely to stab you.
"He took it to the peehole?"
"Right up it."
Sadly for the rhino, dehorning is usually carried out by ill-informed criminal dickwads with stubby fingers made nearly useless by decades of severe inbreeding, and thus the "surgery" is almost always fatal. So rangers came up with a novel solution to stop dehorning: dehorning.
That wasn't a typo.
When rangers spot a rhino gallivanting about the savannah (as we all know they do when nobody's looking), they follow him with a helicopter and drop him with a tranquilizer dart. Then they simply steal the horn themselves, slicing it off as the beast slumbers. The difference here is that rangers actually know what they're doing, and when it's done right, dehorning doesn't hurt the rhino at all (well, that's what they say, anyway). The horn grows back, though, so the rhinos need to be rounded up every couple of years for another expensive manicure, and all those drugs risk Winehousing the poor beasts. Tourism operators also worry that people won't pay to look at such a pitifully emasculated excuse of a badass beast:
"Look at that pussy; I could totally kick his ass. Hold my beer."
But even with this depressing list of problems, dehorning has cut poaching rates enough to be the go-to move when a population is circling the drain. Fortunately, scientists may have a better idea. Instead of chopping the horn off, they infuse it with the same kind of dye used to stain notes from bank robberies. It shows up on X-ray scanners, making smuggling much tougher, and just for laughs they also mix in an insecticide. Any Vietnamese bureaucrat taking this stuff for his hangover will explode in a hell-rain of vomit and diarrhea so brutal, he'll probably quit facilitating the death of an endangered species altogether and just eat a bacon sandwich instead.
Hitting Crocodiles With Sticks to Increase Their Numbers
By the 1970s, environmentalism was damn near a thing, and saltwater crocodile hunting was banned. No one was too bothered by this, as by that time we had already killed so many that there weren't enough crocs left to either hassle humans or be profitable enough to hunt. Their numbers quickly rebounded. But as you'd expect of a prehistoric reptile, "public relations" was not listed under "strengths" on their resumes. As the population regrew, they moved back into their old turf and promptly set about eating people and attacking boats.
The locals were less than enthused about being eaten by giant terror-beasts. They were unhappy even for Australians, whom you'd assume would be used to that kind of thing. Calls grew to blast the crocodile back into a more amenable scarcity. So how do you protect a dangerous, unwelcome animal living in a remote area where the locals are so jaded by murder that they moved into its headquarters?
It turns out you steal their babies.
The government sets a quota and hands out permits for egg collection. Then, armed only with sticks and genitals of cold, hard steel, Australians wade through murky water until they find the nesting mound of a saltwater crocodile. If the pissed-off mama croc is still hanging around, someone holds her off with a stick while someone else swipes the eggs -- which means you need at least two people crazy enough to fight a crocodile with a branch for giggles. Said one laconic participant, "You just have to hit them with a stick to keep them away from you."
"Nah, a stick should be fine. What's the worst a crocodile could do?"
The world's ballsiest hobbyists then sell the eggs to farms for the moderate price of $45 a pop, and suddenly landowners have an incentive to let man-eating reptiles hang out in their backyards. Only about 5 percent of wild croc eggs end up as adults anyway. Birds and fish find the babies a deliciously ironic snack, and adult crocs happily combine population control with dinner. But on the farm, 90 percent survive for a few good years before they're slaughtered for meat and leather.
Sure, it's not ideal for the individual crocs that end up as Eurotrash man-purses, but after 30 years of the ranching program, everyone else is doing great. Landowners are happy to let them be, because even if their tenants are dicks sometimes, at least they pay rent. For Aboriginal communities, crocs are bringing in badly needed cash and jobs. And the wild crocodiles are doing fine. There were about 3,000 left in 1971; now there's over 100,000 of them cruising Australia's waterways. Everybody wins!
Well, except for maybe a few ill-informed tourists who were blissfully ignorant enough to assume that it was safe to swim in Australia.
Saving Animals by Encouraging Kids to Kill Them
Hunting consists of a lot of sitting outside in the early morning waiting for an animal to appear, usually in cold temperatures, and often drunk. Kids these days don't see the point -- they're not old enough to drink, and they can get all the pleasure of killing a beautiful thing that wasn't paying attention from their graphically impressive gaming consoles, thank you.
"We've been out here forever; can't we just camp a deer spawn point and then go home?"
This is a problem.
For the animals.
It turns out that much of the money for conservation programs comes from the sale of hunting licenses. Without people buying hunting licenses, there isn't enough money for animal conservation. Steve Sanetti, the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said, "As paradoxical as it may seem, if hunting were to disappear, a large amount of the funding that goes to restore all sorts of wildlife habitat, game and nongame species alike, would disappear." In other words, if people don't pay to kill animals, animals will die.
Apparently Bambi was more ethically convoluted than anyone thought.
Man, do you ever just stop and appreciate how totally fucked you are, animals?
Of course, that's coming from the president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and we risk controversy here by wondering if he might not be a bit biased. But regardless of whether you're pro or con, there's no arguing that hunting is a multibillion-dollar industry. Hunting sales generate retail dollars, and that money gets pumped into local economies and, through taxes, generates hundreds of millions more for government wildlife protection efforts. That's just how it works. There's no arguing it. With fewer new hunters arriving to fill in for retiring hunters, this revenue is slipping, and it's negatively impacting the Fish and Wildlife Service in several states -- whose job it is to protect and manage animal populations.
Conservation has a lot of faces.
States are doing what they can to try to lure kids back. They haven't yet resorted to endorsements from Dora the Big Game Hunta or SpongeBob RiflePants, but they have lowered or eliminated minimum hunting ages in 30 states. Authorities are also running workshops that extol the virtues of hunting to children and ceaselessly plugging the sport using social networking.
Guns, blood, and Twitter: Together at last.
Making Penguins Wear Dorky Sweaters
The fairy penguins of Tasmania live on an island near a shipping route, because there's no apartments section in the Penguin Craigslist. They're pretty much stuck where they are, which sucks, because their home is frequently hit by oil spills from passing ships. The birds get oiled up, in the least sexy meaning of that term, and when they go to preen their feathers, they ingest poisonous oil and die.
The end. Article over. Go kill yourself.
Somewhere, that damn Sarah McLachlan song just started playing on its own.
Oh, wait! No, sorry, there's more: Conservation groups do clean the birds, but it takes a long time to scrub down a whole flock of greasy birds. Birds that were waiting their turn for a bath were preening their feathers and thus dying before the workers had a chance to clean them. What to do?
Why, knit them tiny adorable penguin sweaters, of course!
"Come at me with a beanie cap and I'm gonna go find a seal to end this farce."
It was a grand idea whose practicality was outweighed only by its cuddliness. But then some grizzled old veteran of the great penguin war looked up from the dead bird in his hands, choked back the tears, and furiously demanded to know how they were going to knit 1,000 penguin sweaters in time. So they asked the Internet, which had been waiting for this exact moment since the moment it was first incepted, and of course it said "OMGZORS I CAN MAYK PENGY CLOWZZ!1."
Turns out that meant "Yes, we will absolutely help you put turtlenecks on penguins."
Well, we've finally done it: hipster animals. Good job, humanity.
A copy of the pattern was posted on one of the conservation groups' websites. The pattern was specific as to the size of the sweater, as they could only be about 40 centimeters tall to fit the tiny penguins, but the colors were all up to the volunteers, hence the handsome cable-knits up there.
The penguins weren't happy about wearing them, as they are wild animals and not fans of torso coverings, no matter how hilariously ironic they might be. But it saved their damn lives. The Internet was the true hero here, and all we, as a part of said Internet, are asking in return is that somebody dig through their archives and find us a photo of a penguin in a Cosby sweater.
If it does not exist, make it. Be the change you want to see in this world.
Blair Dodge is a writer from Melbourne, but his real passion is stacking shelves. Check out his friend's Carnisnora Tumblr for more animal hijinks of the illustrated kind.
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