Wednesday, October 26, 2011

History: Same Stuff, Different Epoch

Plain Dealer outdoors writer D'arcy Egan recently wrote a series of articles on efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. In one piece, he discussed the Asian carp's presence in the Illinois River. And what he said about the march of the Asian carp, it seemed to me, could have been said about the march of another species, and I took the liberty of rewriting a section of that piece.

Is Africa a preview of the world's future?

With apologies to D'Arcy Egan, the Plain Dealer's outdoors writer.

The Wooly Mammoth Press-Prevaricator, Oct. 22, 55,001 BC

SOMEWHERE IN AFRICA - There have been experts who say human beings won't survive outside of this small enclave in Africa. The rest of the world is too cold, they suggest, and will not provide the level of comfort the funny looking bipeds need in order to thrive and reproduce.

But nobody needs to tell the saber-tooth tigers and mastodons how amazingly adaptable and resilient humans are, and how they can easily overwhelm and change a way of life. The humans are thriving here, and many mammoth scientists firmly believe they would flourish in other parts of the globe, especially in places where there is plenty of game and a wealth of fish in the lakes and rivers to encourage them to eat heartily.

As you travel through Africa, it is startling to watch the humans become comfortable on the lands they have claimed for themselves. The humans are seemingly everywhere, from smart-mouthed youngsters to behemoths who can weigh 300 pounds and much more.

It is impossible not to imagine what would happen should these erstwhile apes continue to come down from the trees and migrate to other areas.

Humans have proven they can dominate an ecosystem, displacing the native animal species. In some sections of Africa, humans already make up 90 percent of the population. Day by day, the humans are expanding their range, with new populations most recently found in a place called Europe.

If they make it to other parts of the world, experts say the humans could overwhelm the native species and, given their ravenous habits, deplete the food supply.

In the worst case, various species could face the danger of flying spears and arrows, and predatory species could see their prey disappear.

A 15-mile tour of one river provided a clear picture. Humans were everywhere, ready to grab rocks and spears at the sound of approaching wildlife. They could be spotted all along the banks of the river. They jumped up and down, yelling for their young to bring them weapons. The erratic "thumps" we felt were caused by humans hitting us with rocks they tossed from the shore.

When the number of humans increased in Asia Minor a few years ago, native species were amazed. They couldn't believe humans used weapons to obtain food, and sometimes made a game of killing native species. Dangerously armed humans were stalking the same animals local species relied on for nourishment.

"Of course they're dangerous," said a one lion. "A tiger cub was recently hit by a flying spear. The spear punctured his chest. He needed to have it removed by his parents."

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