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Christmas 2010: a time of reflection and reverence ...

Without Intervention, Mariana Crow to Become Extinct in 75 Years ... Who cares?

In essence, most research and conservation projects are about money and control: the funding of institutions and projects and the production of scientific reports used to promote public policies which only serve to justify more research and a political ideology which supports the incumbent class of politicians.

While we should be good stewards of our planet’s resource, avoiding air, land and water pollution wherever possible, and promote the study of our physical surroundings, perhaps sometimes it is wisest that we don’t interfere or tamper with an evolutionary nature.

Newswise.com is reporting …

Without Intervention, Mariana Crow to Become Extinct in 75 Years”

“Researchers from the University of Washington say the Mariana crow, a forest crow living on Rota Island in the western Pacific Ocean, will go extinct in 75 years.”

“The extinction could happen almost twice as soon as previously believed.”

“The crow’s extinction can be prevented with a bird management program that focuses on helping fledgling birds reach their first birthday, said James Ha, UW research associate professor in psychology.”

I have a few questions …

1.   Why a professor of psychology is conducting this research when one would expect that a ornithologist or anthropological zoologist would be most concerned with the bird’s welfare?

2.   Why are the birds “endangered?” “The Has [the husband and wife team of James and Renee Ha] suspect that the uncontrolled increase of feral cats on Rota is leading to the decrease of Mariana crows, much like brown tree snakes led to the disappearance of forest birds on Guam.”

3.  Why should we care or interfere in what is clearly a matter of natural selection in the ecosphere?

4.  Why should the United States allocate government funds in a time when our economic survival is as uncertain as the bird’s future and that they money could be used to help pay down our debt?

Once again, we are faced with an extremely small sample size, a speculative hypothesis and a “model” of the future of a species.

“Ha examined survival rates in 97 Mariana crowsCorvus kubaryi – that had been tracked between 1990 and 2010 by researchers. He found that 40 percent of fledgling crows made it to their first birthday.”

“The rapid decline of young birds is twice what researchers previously estimated.”

“’It’s the first year of survival that’s the most crucial,’ said Ha, lead author of a report on the research. ‘If only 40 percent of fledglings survive their first year, then we predict the species will go extinct in 75 years.’”

“The 75-year extinction estimate is according to a population model that factors in the estimated number of existing Mariana crows330 – with the 40 percent first-year survival rate, average number of fledglings per nest and fertility of female birds. Using this model, Ha found that 91 birds would exist in 20 years and that in 75 years the species would be extinct.”

Note the assurance of the statement: “Using this model, Ha found that 91 birds would exist in 20 years and that in 75 years the species would be extinct.” But there is no assurance that the model is correct; that other factors such as an increase in the feral cat population or a natural calamity such as a bird virus wouldn’t simply wipe out the entire colony. Or that man’s intervention would produce a healthier flock – especially if the birds were inbred with a severely limited matriarchal bloodline.

Like global warming where it appears to be impossible to model a chaotic natural system without tweaking the models and the data to fit a pre-conceived historical notion, I am not so sure that “guesstimating” a survival rate and then making projections is either meaningful nor helpful in the management of a particular species.

Here in California, we have seen the California Condor used to fund both institutions and scientists; turning the Condor into little more than an exotic outdoors pet with no known function in nature. The the public policy people decided that it was important to implement gun and ammunition control along the habitat of the Condor and all scientific reason was lost to committed political ideologues.

“Previously, biologists believed that the first-year survival rate of Mariana crows was higher, around 60 to 80 percent.”

“When Ha used those estimates in his population model, the outlook was not as grim for the birds. At 60 percent first-year survival rate, Mariana crows would dwindle to 218 birds in 20 years and become extinct in 133 years. And an 80 percent first-year survival rate projects that in 20 years there would be 453 birds, a growing population that would avoid extinction.”

There is no model, no logic or anything else that would tell you that 453 birds is a sustainable flock that would avoid extinction. This is pure speculation – an hypothesis based on nothing more that guesswork.

’According to the population model, if we can boost fledgling survival from 40 percent to 70 percent, the Mariana crows will be fine,’ Ha said.”

The crows will be fine? At what cost to our decimated economy when researchers are spending millions, cumulatively billions of dollars in research that does little or nothing to  advance civilization or make our environment more useful to those paying the tab.

“Monogamously-mating, Mariana crows live exclusively on Rota Island, populated by about 1,200 people and located 56 miles northeast of Guam. Rota is a U.S. territory and is up for consideration as a U.S. national park.”

“Ha and Renee Ha, co-author of the report and UW research scientist in psychology, fear that Rota faces the same avian demise as Guam, which has no forest birds.”

Here’s the pitch …

“The researchers say that a captive rearing program could save the Mariana crows. They hope to set up a rearing facility where they could incubate eggs from the wild, raise the fledglings until their first birthday and then release the grown birds into nesting sites on the island.”

This is not the only crow research done by the husband and wife team of James and Renee Ha …

“Animal behaviorists have something new to crow about. Researchers at the University of Washington have found a species of crow that distinctly alters its behavior when attempting to steal food from another crow, depending on whether or not the other bird is a relative. The Northwestern crow (Corvus caurinus) uses a passive strategy when it attempts to take food from kin but becomes aggressive when it tries to steal a morsel from a non-related crow. This is believed to be the first time that such a behavior pattern has been observed in any bird species.” <Source>

Bottom line …

It is my empirical observation that this is how the left-infiltrated ecological movement obtains funding for liberal institutions and its personnel. Especially in times when research funds are scare – made more so by the billions flowing to specious research on global warming.

At least Ha, to his credit, did not portray the Crow survival issue as a catastrophic planetary emergency.

I say that we cutback on government research in areas which do not advance our immediate well-being or answer the major questions of science. Turning crows into pets in a controlled environment might be a great method for securing funds … but I do not see one benefit other than to the institutions and scientists involved. Ditto the California Condor which should be allowed to flourish or go extinct on its own.

The Marxist/Ecological theory that we need to remediate the damage that man allegedly caused to the planet (even to the extent of becoming hut-dwelling vegans) is unacceptable to me.

While I have nothing personal against Ha, his fellow researchers or the University of Washington, enough is enough. We must draw the line somewhere – and folks here it is for all to see: we must take care of humans, especially senior citizens, before we spend millions on crows, butterflies, snail-darters, Delta smelt or other such research. This may alienate people for a perfect planet – but I would much rather be around to see another sunrise than know Medicare money was being used to save a crow whose value to the overall scheme of things is unknowable.

-- steve

P.S. No disrespect to the researchers intended, but a more cost-effective solution would be to shoot some of those feral cats. That is, if your suppositions are correct.

Reference Links:

Without Intervention, Mariana Crow to Become Extinct in 75 Years

JAMES C. HA; RESEARCH ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON; CERTIFIED APPLIED ANIMAL BEHAVIORIST 

Renee Robinette Ha, Ph.D.;Lecturer/Research Scientist;Department of Psychology; University of Washington

Learn more about UW’s Rota Avian Behavioral Ecology Program: http://depts.washington.edu/rabep/index.html


“Nullius in verba.”-- take nobody's word for it!

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