Plant and animal protection: Time to wake up

Feb. 01, 2014 @ 04:43 PM

A man in Alamance County discovered an unusual animal in his backyard.  It was about the size of a large cat, had an elongated snout, small ears and a long, ringed tail.  It ate a tomato from his garden and disappeared. He did not know what it was.  He called his neighbors to find out if any of them could shed some light on the mysterious stranger. No one knew what it was.   The next day a neighbor called him and said “Your animal is over here.  Come over here and shoot him!”

When will we learn to live with wildlife?  The man declined to shoot it; instead he trapped it.  Shortly thereafter he discovered it was a coati. It liked hot dogs.

The coati is a native of South America, and is called a hog-nosed coon, snookum bear or Brazilian aardvark.  Their range extends from the Amazonian to southern Arizona.   They have sharp teeth and eat fruit, insects, worms, lizards, small birds and eggs. Their natural enemies are eagles, hawks, foxes and man.   They are kept as pets in South and Central America.

His neighbor’s request to “come over here and shoot him” reminds me of when blacksnakes have come to visit us.  In 1955, when I was building our house, a blacksnake took up residence in a dogwood tree close to the house.  He didn’t bother us, nor did we bother him -- until a workman killed him.

In 1985 a blacksnake came in our yard.  After awhile, Carolyn and I thought of him as our pet. A backhoe operator came in our yard to do some digging.  One day we came back to our home and the man came up to us and said, “I killed a snake for you!”“Oh, no!” exclaimed Carolyn, “You’ve killed our pet!”  

Protecting a unique area

Papua New Guinea is the eastern half of the island of New Guinea, north of Australia. It has been one of the least explored areas of the world. It is covered with a very dense and almost impenetrable forest in which over 1m000 different tribes live.   Some tribes have never seen people from other countries.

Mount Bosavi is a volcano in the center of Papua.  It last erupted 200,000 years ago.

Years ago, scientists from Oxford University, the London Zoo and the Smithsonian entered the crater.  They may have been the first humans to go there.  Inside was a world that was undisturbed by man for eons.

The things they found were astounding.  They found a very large rat, strange frogs, a spider disguised as lichen, a red-headed fruit dove, a silky marsupial, a striped possum and a red King Bird of Paradise. The beautiful bird was quite friendly.  None of the animals had any fear of the men.  

They published pictures which show the scientists holding the animals in their bare hands.  This was a serious mistake.  Now that the unique nature of that area is known, all efforts should be made to make it a wildlife refuge. They should discipline themselves and not touch the animals. They should mark off areas they wish to explore, yet stay off the greater part of the crater.  Then they should not set foot in the restricted areas.  They should take pains not to interfere with the natural balance of nature.

A short distance away from Mt. Bosavi, Papua is timbering the forest.  The cutting of trees in Papua is sad, but probably inevitable.  Now is the time to set up protections for this area.  The longer we wait, the harder it will be to protect the area.   Right now the surrounding area is inhospitable.

Papua is an independent state, with a government that is willing to preserve their natural resources. 

I am surprised that the scientists would hold animals in their bare hands.  This area is just as precious as the Galapagos Islands.  It is more pristine.  Part of the mountain is a wildlife area, but even more stringent rules should apply.  No plant or animal remains should be removed or even disturbed.  No food or other foreign material should be brought into the area.  We should not bring diseases into the area.  Those that go into the area should leave only their tracks.