California cougar caught in homemade camera trap - photo randomtruth (Flickr)
3rd March 2011: The eastern cougar has been declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The last one was shot and stuffed in 1938 it is said. However people who comment on this event say they are still seeing eastern cougars - "an occasional cougar is spotted in the northern GA mountains". The proper name for the cougar is Puma. Although of all the wild cats the Puma has the most names. The different names confuse people. What does the extinction of this subspecies of wildcat say about us? And what do people say about this event that took place in 1938. It has taken 73 years to declare it. I guess the authorities have to play safe.
My reading of people's reaction is that the world is divided on the subject. This sharp division of opinion is typical of humankind. It creates a divided world that is not in harmony.
It is said that "99% of all life that ever inhabited earth is now extinct". So who cares? Other people in the USA see the human as the monster, "Congratulations America. Another one bites the dust!" and "How sad. We are the beasts." We should remember that it was European settlers and early Americans who did most of the shooting of cougars. This early extermination (
for skins) was compounded by human settlement expansion causing loss of cougar habitat and the habitat of cougar prey. We squeezed the cougar out of its territory in the more heavily populated east. This is the classic way people destroy wildlife.
The fact that the last one was hunted and stuffed says a lot about the human race. One group of people say that we are trashing the planet, over exploiting it and not concerning ourselves with sustainability. The extinction of the easter cougar is a symptom of that mentality. We have the right to survive of course but the argument is that we should use our intelligence to do things in a sustainable manner. That starts with a serious look at the taboo subject of unregulated human population growth. Whatever we do regarding sustainability will be useless unless we think about reproduction. But the economists demand economic growth and more people supports that model. We need to change the business model from world economic growth to quality of life for all.
Another group of people think….no, correction, they don't think. They are unconcerned about these wider issues. They focus on their world and ignore the bigger issues. Big business and governments take care of the bugger issues and screw up.
Another group says something like, "it is incredibly arrogant for humans to assume we are some sort of caretakers of the world and have to save every species from extinction." This is based on the argument that we are just like any other species of animal competing for resources and it is or right to use resources and dominate the other animals in the interests of survival.
I can see that argument. At a basic level it is correct. However, because we are so dominant we have a duty to be responsible caretakers of the planet in the interests of generations to come. We don't own the planet. In UK land law language, we lease the planet. Nature is the landlord. Nature will take the planet back.
Personally I hate the idea that the eastern cougar has been declared extinct. But in the grand scheme of things it is not that big a deal. What is a big deal is the mentality we have that allows us to make species extinct at an ever increasing rate. It is not about one animal but the global picture. People ask, "why do animals become extinct?" The usual reason is because of human activity primarily in terms of destruction of the habitat of the animal concerned and the prey of the animal concerned. We also did a lot of hunting for skins although this has become less of a factor mainly because it is not economical to hunt for skins. If it was, we would. Ancient Chinese medicine is the modern curse of the tiger.
The opinions of people are divided on the matter of the extinction of the eastern cougar and politicians are too busy creating "wealth" to care. Well actually it's more about survival these days. With greater human population comes greater competition. Do you sense that the rat race has become a little more ratty of late? If that is the case and if this continues we won't have any money or time to think about other species.