Posts Tagged ‘Gorillas’

Disaster and Hope

June 18, 2009

Hellbenders and gorillas have very little in common; one is an ugly amphibian and the other a noble-looking primate. However, what they do have in common is an alarming decrease in their numbers along with many other animals.  How is it possible to save these creatures as well as many others in immediate need of our attention?

The hellbender is at a distinct disadvantage.  Slimy with beady eyes, it is not a candidate for a Disney movie.  So why have the people of the Blue River, Indiana adopted it as a mascot for their river?  It won’t increase the value of their land, it won’t bring status to the community and the only interaction these folks will have with hellbenders is occasional fishing bait theft.

The hellbenders are a symbol of commitment to this river, a living reminder of how these people and their forebears guarded the river from abuse. If the hellbender is disappearing, the people living on the Blue River want to know about it and will exert the political muscle to stop it.

Mountain gorillas, on the other hand, are impressive animals.  Eco-tourists are willing to pay a lot of money to observe them in the wild, bringing the Mfubira people of the Bwindi Inpenetrable Forest an incredible amount of capital.  For the Mfubira, who have suffered from war and poverty, their primary concerns today are education and proper health care for their children.  The gorillas are a means to these ends.

With no practical way to patrol the forest, the Uganda Wildlife Authority fought a loosing battle with poachers who had nearly decimated the mountain gorilla.  Today, the Mfubira act as the eyes and ears of the UWA to report suspicious activity. As a result, poaching has been nearly eradicated in Bwindi.

In the case of both the hellbender and the mountain gorilla, their survival depends on the will of the local people. Perhaps, we can’t all have mountain gorillas in our backyards, but if we look hard enough we can find something worthy of our attention.  Whether it’s a mussel, a butterfly, a bear or a frog, what does matter is that we find something to care about and take it seriously.

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